Joplin Arts Fest

Ahh, September in southwest Missouri.


It’s a time when the weighty summer air dissipates, revealing a clear sky the color of a robin’s egg. After spending the sizzling days of summer indoors in the air-conditioning, people emerge from their homes to breathe in the cooler air and to reconnect – with the outdoors and with each other.


When summer hibernation ends, the community festival season begins. One of the first festivals of the season is Joplin Arts Fest. This is the granddaddy of arts festivals in southwest Missouri, and it’s expected to draw a crowd of 20,000 art lovers to Main Street during this year’s event.





I went to Arts Fest last year and was wowed by the talent of the artists, both local and regional, who displayed their work. The artists’ booths were set up in the middle of Main Street which I liked because all of the visual art was centralized, and I was able to walk up one side of the street and down the other without missing any of the artists.


There’s pottery, glass art, sculptures, drawings, photography, woodworking, and jewelry (including one of my all-time local favorites Kristin’s Laboratory). Here are some of the highlights of my Arts Fest walk down Main Street, along with links to the artists’ websites so you can see for yourself how gifted they are, in case my photos don’t do them any justice.



Devon Baumann paints, draws, and uses mixed media (like wood) in her work. If you want more information about her work, you can email her at



I love this photo of her standing next to a cutout painting of her mother.


Steve Doerr of The Wooden Doerr turns pieces of wood into works of art.



To me, it’s a miracle how he does it. Check out the brilliant turquoise running through this piece of maple.



Absolutely stunning.


Moss Ridge DesignsEd Bratton of Rogers, Arkansas, patiently bends wire to make a tree sculpture.



It’s mesmerizing to watch him transform the plain, boring wire into delicate and unique pieces of art.




A few months ago, I walked into a gallery in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and saw several of these tree sculptures and I immediately remembered that I had first seen this artist at Arts Fest in 2015. Small world, huh?


Angel Brame of Dragonflies and Mud Pottery made these lovely pieces.



Have you ever tried to make pottery? I have, and my pieces did not look anything like Angel’s, but I had a blast making them. Try it out for yourself sometime at one of Joplin’s studios: Phoenix Fired Art and Crackpot Pottery and Art Studio.


This is Jane McCaulley of Jane’s Glass Art, and a former teacher of mine. I took a glass tray-making class from her last year at Spiva Center for the Arts and created a serving tray that I use fairly often because, well, I’m just so proud of it.




Oh, Jane, what you do with glass takes my breath away! These guitars are exquisite.





Lisa Krannichfeld, from Little Rock, Arkansas, creates with ink and watercolor in a nontraditional way, and pairs her paintings with unconventional materials like wood and resin.




Now for 2015 Joplin Arts Fest Best in Show: Natalie Wiseman.




I was introduced to Natalie’s work at Spiva Center for the Arts a few years ago and became an instant fan. Her bright, somewhat surreal still life paintings are whimsical and fun, like this one called Sink or Swim.




Arts Fest also has booths offering children’s activities, like this one from Wildcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center where kids can make a painting with a fish stamp.



Adorable Ian Suzuki’s having fun creating a painting of two fish in love.




Performing arts have their place at Arts Fest, as well.  There’s a stage where local musicians and dancers perform throughout the day, like Luke Shafer from the group Me Like Bees, and dancers from Karen’s Dance Studio of Joplin (including my daughter this year, so I’m extra excited to go!).



Turn off the A/C, open those windows, and let that cool September air flow through your house. Meanwhile, you can join your friends and neighbors in downtown Joplin to celebrate the beauty of the season at Arts Fest.


For details about this year’s event, visit



To read more about my adventures in the area, visit

Water’s Edge Girls’ Float Trip

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Silence engulfed me. It was 8:00 a.m. and all of my children were off to school. The house was finally still.


This was the time of day when I usually fired up my laptop and started working. But not today. I opened my eyes and reached for my cell phone. “Ready?” I typed.


“I was born ready,” came the response from my friend Julie.


Five minutes later I was at her doorstep, giddy with excitement. While our kids were at school and most everybody else we knew was working, we were playing hooky.




A warm breeze wafted through the trees, foreshadowing a hot September afternoon. “Did you pack sunscreen?” Julie asked.


“Two bottles.” We would definitely need it that day. With the sun reflecting off the sparkling waters of Shoal Creek and onto our skin, we’d be red as heirloom tomatoes in under an hour without protection.


Our mission that day was to leave the fast-paced, obligation-filled world behind us, immersing ourselves in the serenity of nature.


Just two girls and a canoe.


And sunscreen.


And a cooler with beverages and snacks, and a waterproof bag for our keys and cell phones (yes, we brought those because what if the schools needed to reach us about our kids?).


Julie and I had planned this getaway for months. This was our chance to disconnect from our responsibilities and just go with the flow, literally. We had reserved a canoe at Water’s Edge Campground, just south of Joplin, and we were going to spend the next few hours floating our cares away.



Water’s Edge is comprised of 43 acres of raw southwest Missouri beauty, with pristine Shoal Creek meandering through it. Visitors can purchase a day pass for swimming and fishing, or they can rent a canoe and spend the day floating on the creek. There’s also a campground on the property that offers RV and primitive camping.


After checking in, Julie and I were driven from the rental area to the put-in point where we began our trip. Julie got in the canoe like the old pro that she is (well, she’s not “old,” just much more experienced at canoeing than I am), but I wobbled a bit as I entered, losing my grip on the bag I was holding, sending it splashing into the water.


Julie quickly fished it out of the creek before it sank. “And so our adventure begins,” she laughed. I was thankful that my husband had given us the waterproof bag that he brings with him on his fishing trips, and all of our things remained nice and dry.


Once we got settled, we pushed off from the bank. The lush trees formed a canopy overhead, nestling us in their shade. Neither one of us spoke for several minutes; we were lost in our thoughts, hypnotized by the rhythmic sound of the paddles sploshing through the water and the occasional call of a songbird.


“…all the summer world was bright and fresh, and brimming with life. There was a song in every heart; and if the heart was young, the music issued at the lips.”― Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer


Being infused with a dose of the great outdoors was as therapeutic as a day at the spa – maybe even more so. And the fact that we were playing hooky from our regular responsibilities intensified the experience.


“We’re like Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, mischievously skipping school and whiling away the day on the water, seeking out adventure,” I mused.


“But way cooler, because we’re girls,” Julie joked.


But her comment made me think (because that’s what you do when you’re floating down a river). How often do we, as working moms, give ourselves permission to have a “ditch day?”


Not often enough.


As Julie and I made our way back to the campground area, we occasionally paused to watching a turtle surface or a snake wiggle its way to shore. The wildlife seemed undisturbed by our presence, and since it was a school/work day, we only passed one other canoe the entire time – a fellow rebel.


“We should make this a yearly tradition, Tom” said Julie.


“I agree, Huck.”


I could get used to this carefree, rebellious life.


“They said they would rather be outlaws a year in Sherwood Forest than President of the United States forever.”

Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer



Water’s Edge is located at 6614 Old Highway 71 in Joplin. Click here to visit Water’s Edge on Facebook.


To read more about my adventures in the area, visit