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story.lead_photo.caption Janelle Jessen/Herald-Leader An Oompa band, led by Keith Rutlege, right, owner of Creekside Taproom, played in front of Ziggywurst during Tap into History.

The Ivory Bill Brewing building currently houses Siloam Springs' first brewery since prohibition, but the building was once a hula hoop factory.

Community members got a chance to learn about the building's past and present use during the third annual Oktoberfest: Tap into History fundraiser for the Siloam Springs Museum on Friday evening. A total of 66 people attended the event, which began at Ivory Bill Brewing, then moved to Ziggywurst and ended with live music at Creekside Taproom.

The Ivory Bill Brewing building, located at 516 E. Main, was built to serve as a Pontiac dealership, according to Don Warden, museum historian. The Pour Jons Coffee portion of the building housed the dealership offices and the Ivory Bill Brewing portion of the building served as the garage, he said.

In the mid-1940s, Ralph Jones Company had a plumping supply business across the street in what is now the Cobb Vantress office parking lot. In 1957, the business installed a plastic extruder in what is now Ivory Bill Brewing to make plastic pipes, Warden said. In 1958, the country was in the midst of the hula hoop craze, and the Ralph Jones Company began making the toys too.

"In late 1958, the hula-hoop craze had become a big thing in the country, and they decided to take advantage of that," Warden said. "It was a simple matter of taking a section of plastic tube and curling it around, and taking a wooden dowel and stapling it in places, and then you have a hula hoop."

A large wooden hopper that was likely used for the plastic beads that go inside the hula hoops can still be seen in the ceiling of the back room. During renovations, several colorful plastic beads were found in the hopper, according to Casey Letellier, who owns Ivory Bill Brewing with his partner Dorothy Hall.

Hula hoop production probably lasted only a couple of years in the building, Warden said. In 1959, the company bought a building on South Arkansas Highway 59 that would become the current Pipelife Jet Stream Inc.

Jennifer and Mark Galvin of Bartlesville, Okla., members of the National Historic Preservation Trust, were among those who attended the event. Jennifer said she was searching online for fun fall history related events when they discovered Tap into History.

The plastic material that modern hula hoops are made from was invented by Phillips Petroleum Company chemists in the Galvin's hometown of Bartlesville. They said they didn't know the tour would include information about a hula hoop factory when they planned the trip, so they were delighted to discover the connection in Siloam Springs.

After Warden's presentation, Letellier explained the current use of the building and the brewing process used in his recently opened business.

Even though the Siloam Springs museum is closed for renovations through early 2019, the organization is staying connected with the community through events such as Tap into History, according to Laura Klenda, chairperson for the museum's activities and events committee.

More information about the Siloam Springs Museum is available online at

General News on 10/24/2018

Print Headline: Oktoberfest highlights downtown history

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