Oma Noma festival triggers memories of traditional family fun

At the Lake of the Ozarks

Four-year-old Peyton Gilleland, Lake Ozark, shows how she can be a mermaid in the Little Mis Oma Noma contest. Peyton won the contest for ages 21 months to 4 years at the Oma Noma Heritage Festival on Saturday on Bagnell Dam Strip. She is pictured with contest emcee Terri Van Klavern; her brother and Little Mister in the age division, Logan Parrish-Gilleland, and fellow competitors.

Four-year-old Peyton Gilleland, Lake Ozark, shows how she can be a mermaid in the Little Mis Oma Noma contest. Peyton won the contest for ages 21 months to 4 years at the Oma Noma Heritage Festival on Saturday on Bagnell Dam Strip. She is pictured with contest emcee Terri Van Klavern; her brother and Little Mister in the age division, Logan Parrish-Gilleland, and fellow competitors. Photo by Samantha Edmondson.

LAKE OZARK, Mo. -- Like her age division competitor in the Little Miss Oma Noma contest, 4-year-old Peyton Gilleland also likes bananas and wants to be a mermaid when she grows up. However, she decided to pull out a special trick to get an edge up on the competition during the contest at the Seventh Annual Oma Noma Heritage Festival Saturday on Bagnell Dam Strip at the Lake of the Ozarks.

“Wait a minute, Peyton is going to show us how she can be a mermaid,” said contest emcee Terri Van Klavern.

Peyton crossed her feet and stood like a picturesque mermaid, with the crowd giving her applause. The Lake Ozark resident is no stranger to the stage, having competed in pageants and in the contest previously. Yet, it was a new honor being crowned Little Miss Oma Noma in the 21 months to 4 years category. Her brother Logan Parrish-Gilleland, 3, also won in the age division as Little Mr. Oma Noma.

“The two entered the contest at Oma Noma a few years ago, but they didn’t win,” said the siblings’ father. “This is neat. We came to the festival a few years back, and the kids really enjoy it. They like dressing up, too.”

Peyton and Logan were not alone in costume as many of the contest competitors adorned period clothing from the 1930-’70s, as did members of the 1931 Troupe, festival volunteers, Strip business owners and employees, and spectators to the popular event.

In fact, for the past six years, the Oma Noma Heritage Festival has celebrated the days of yesteryear when Bagnell Dam first opened in 1931, and its pioneers of the time who jumpstarted Lake of the Ozarks’ now boosting economic success. Now, the Oma Noma Hertiage Festival organizers have seen this popular event grow and expanded its celebration to include a tribute to Lake of the Ozarks through the years. According to Oma Noma Heritage Festival committee member and Dogpatch and Leatherman business owner Mike Page, Saturday’s seventh annual event included a “Through the Years” theme with historical exhibits highlighting the Lake’s many momentous occasions displayed at different Bagnell Dam Strip merchants.

There was a place at each participating merchant for guests viewing the exhibits to enter a drawing for a grand prize. The Photo Walk 2013 exhibit that was taken last summer was also on display at The White House, which is also on Bagnell Dam Strip.

The theme carried on through many of the activities, vendors and event participants Saturday during the festival. The 1931 Troupe actors were performing era skits up and down the Strip or simply walking amongst visitors in their period entire. The Lake of the Ozarks Corvette Club also had the “Through the Years” spirit by showcasing Corvettes through the ages, starting with the earliest decade through to the most recent release.

The music reflected the “Through the Years” theme with Old Time Mountain dulcimer musicians, rock and roll ensembles, Ozark Mountain Cloggers and country artists.

Many activities were held Saturday including the bubble-gum-blowing and peanut-spitting contests, the first donut-eating contest sponsored by Bread Bowl Bakery, a hula hoop contest, a dog show and the popular pie-eating contest sponsored by Grandpa’s Ice Cream and Pie Shop.

The name of the festival is inspired by Oma and Noma Degraffenreid, the first local residents to cross the now-famous Bagnell Dam when it opened in 1931.

According to the Oma Noma Heritage Festival website, for the people in 1931, it was a historic moment to cross over Bagnell Dam. Also, Oma and Noma’s grandfather and father were an integral part of the dam’s construction.

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