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Company’s coming

Jimmie Edwards takes it personally when a group comes to visit the Ozark Folk Center near Mountain View, Ark.

“It’s a personal thing with me. I consider any group like company to my house,” said Edwards, the group sales manager for the center. “I greet them when they come and say goodbye if possible when they leave.”

In between, Edwards personally sees that everything goes smoothly for groups, whether they are leisure motorcoach groups, school trips or conferences.

“When they call me, I take care of everything,” he said. “I am like a receptive [operator]. They only have one person to deal with. I arrange all activities, meals, tours, anything they want.

“When they are here, I make sure I am available. I greet them and make sure everything comes off. If they want a Moon Pie and Pepsi reception at 2 o’clock, I make sure they have it at 2 o’clock so when they get back, they say, ‘We had a great time.’”

Edwards is also responsible for recruiting the groups to the center, and he makes sales calls and attends industry conferences and marketplaces.

“I have talked to them, made a promise and given my word. I will deliver on that word to make sure it’s good,” he said.

Attention to detail is something Edwards also practices in his leisure time, when he is taking part in Civil War re-enactments.

“We are very authentic,” he said. “We take great pains to re-enact exactly what was there. If we go to an event where all they had was hardtack and green apples, that is what we carry with us. We try not to use modern language; we don’t talk about cars and airplanes.

“There are so many misconceptions about the Civil War. People don’t understand the life these guys lived. We try to keep a little bit of history alive.”

That is what the Ozark Folk Center is doing as it maintains the cultural history of the Ozark Mountains from 1820 to 1920.

And that suits Edwards, who has been in love with 1800s history “since I was old enough to take a step,” just fine.

Edwards had run his family’s furniture business in his native Blytheville, Ark., for 32 years when he decided 10 years ago he wanted to do something different.

“A friend of mine here in Mountain View called and said, ‘I have a job that is just right for you.’ It was the group sales manager here at the Ozark Folk Center, and since I love doing living history, it seemed to be a natural fit,” said Edwards.

“This a place where I can wear old clothes if I want and talk about the way they did it in the 1800s. I love that time in history, when Lewis and Clark went west, and the mountain men opened the West; then you had the Civil War and cattle drives from Texas. It is such a neat part of history.”

Although his job at the Ozark Folk Center, which gets as many as 175 groups a year, limits Edwards’ participation in Civil War re-enactments to four to six a year, he presents living-history programs for local groups at the center.

And sometimes he puts that 19th-century knowledge and love to practical use. “When we had an ice storm and no electricity for three and a half weeks, it didn’t bother me at all,” he said. “I have a wood stove, and candle and kerosene lanterns. The only thing I missed was a hot shower every night.”