In 1948 in Arkansas there was a popular radio show called “Truth or Consequences”. It was hosted by Ralph Edward and featured the general public as guests. Based on the children’s parlour game, the guests had to tell a truth or pay the consequence. When on June 6, newlyweds, Mr. and Mrs. Howard Forehans of Santa Ana, California refused to tell a truth they were given a consequence which required them to stay for two-weeks in the Bridal Suite, Basin Park Hotel, Eureka Springs. Not much of a consequence there, you might think, but the young couple had to be barefoot from the time they left California until they returned. Good sports, the lovebirds took it all in good part and were seen trekking barefoot up and down the streets of the redneck city and very much to the amusement of the locals.
The Forehans endeared themselves so much to the good people of Eureka Springs they were given the keys of the city, and to celebrate the civic authorities hosted a barefoot ball. Six decades later it is still going. At the second Barefoot Ball, there were 750 pairs of shoes sitting outside the ballroom. Not long after the annual event was associated with a beard-growing contest for the men. Other highlights over the last half century include a major punch up or two. The people from Arkansas know how to enjoy themselves and in 1972, a riot broke out which was quelled by the local constabulary.
Through the years, music tastes have changed and from square dancing to ‘hillbilly” music, the folks of Eureka Springs became quite sophisticated as they swung to "big band sound" and Dixieland music in the 50s and 60s, until eventually they returned to the favoured country music with acoustic fiddle, dulcimer, banjo, accordion and guitars.
Now the Barefoot Ball has become a highlight of the Ozark Folk Festival.
The origin of the term “Hill billy” describes exiled protestants of 17th century who populated rural hilly country of North America. Billy refers to King (Billy) William of Orange, the protestant king of Britain.