Historic Murphysburg Preservation

“I’ve been wanting to go inside this house since I was a little kid.”

 

The man in line in front of me articulated a general sentiment among many of the people huddled underneath the tent that protected us from the steady drizzle on that appropriately eerie Halloween Eve.

 

murphysburg-schiff-mansion-north

We were waiting to enter the magnificent historic home of Charles Schifferdecker, one of the founding fathers of Joplin. With its three-story battlement-topped tower and raised foundation made from rough-faced stone, the home resembles a castle. I’d driven by countless times and was always curious to see what the interior looked like, and after listening to the people in line with me that night, I realized that I wasn’t the only one.

 

murphysburg-schiff-mansion-front

Thanks to Historic Murphysburg Preservation, we were getting the chance to glimpse inside this stately home as part of a special two-day celebration which commemorated the 100-year anniversary of Charles Schifferdecker’s death and which celebrated the many contributions that he made to the city of Joplin during his life.

 

Named after the first residential neighborhood in Joplin, Historic Murphysburg Preservation is a non-profit group dedicated to historic preservation through education and community involvement. The group organizes events which invite people inside some of Joplin’s oldest structures so that they can better understand – and appreciate – the roots of our modern city.

 

Held on the last weekend of October 2015, the “Mr. Charles Schifferdecker…Remembered and Revisited” event spanned two days and three locations, kicking off with a Friday night tour of the Schifferdecker home on 422 Sergeant, which was built in 1890.

 

murphysburg-schiff-mannequins

Halloween decorations filled the grounds, and the rainy night created patches of fog that swirled mysteriously around the entrance to the home, creating a spooky vibe. I thought for sure I would be greeted by the ghost of Charles Schifferdecker himself when I stepped inside the home, but instead I found the interior to be warm and welcoming – and not the least bit haunted.

 

murphysburg-schiff-mansion-dining

A man and woman dressed as Charles Schifferdecker and his wife Wilhelmina greeted those of us on the tour and told us about the history of the home and its architectural details. The arched windows, elegant stained glass, and rich wood trim work were carefully crafted by workers that Schifferdecker brought over from his native Germany, and represent the success that Schifferdecker enjoyed during his life in Joplin.

 

murphysburg-schiff-photo

After touring the first floor of the home, we stopped at the refreshment table to get some goodies to snack on, then sat down under a tent on the outside patio to watch a performance from the American Opera Studio, performed in period costumes, of course.

 

The entire experience of that evening provided us with a living history lesson, and gave us a greater appreciation for one of Joplin’s founding fathers.

 

Activities planned for the following day – Halloween – included a tour of the elaborate Schifferdecker Family Mausoleum (with two sphinxes standing guard at the entrance), and then a tour of the Schifferdecker Beer and Picnic Gardens, which was established around 1876, and is now a private residence. Although I didn’t make it to the mausoleum tour, I did visit the beer gardens.

 

murphysburg-schiff-house-front

Charles Schifferdecker arrived in Joplin with the goal of opening up a brewery which would serve the hardworking miners in the area. He established “Turkey Creek Brewery” on the banks of – you guessed it – Turkey Creek, located in what is now the north part of Joplin on a dead-end road. Because of its hidden location, I never knew that this oasis existed just moments from the bustling commercial Range Line Road until Historic Murphysburg Preservation invited the public to come explore the house and grounds.

 

In addition to serving beer at this brewery, Schifferdecker also provided entertainment in the gardens. There was a raised platform for dancing, plus an expansive grassy area with lawn bowling lanes. Historic Murphysburg Preservation recreated the essence of what it was like back in the brewery days.

 

There was a performance by the American Opera Studio (in period attire).

 

murphysburg-shiff-house-opera

There was lawn bowling for visitors to enjoy. My daughter really got into it!

 

murphysburg-schiff-house-lawn

And there was a beer tent where people could sample and purchase beer and other beverages.

 

murphysburg-schiff-house-beer

We were also able to tour Schifferdecker’s historic home, which was built against a bluff and had a beer cave next to it that always stays below 50 degrees – a perfect place to chill beer and to seek some sweet relief on sweltering Ozark summer days.

 

murphysburg-schiff-house-side

After touring the home, we took a leisurely stroll along picturesque Turkey Creek, which borders the gardens. The image that we saw of the trees’ changing leaves reflecting on the clear water was probably identical to the image that Charles Schifferdecker saw on Halloween in 1876.

 

murphysburg-schiff-house-creek

Over a century has passed, but not much has changed in the gardens, and it kind of boggles the mind to think about that.

 

Historic Murphysburg Preservation holds various events throughout the year, opening up historic locations for the public to view and to experience firsthand. These events offer an immersive experience, allowing visitors to connect to Joplin’s history and community in a uniquely captivating way.

 

For more information on Historic Murphysburg Preservation’s events, click here.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

The Girlfriend’s Guide to Joplin Trails

Ding.

 

My gaze shifted from my laptop screen over to my phone where a message illuminated my home screen: Looking forward to Happy Hour.

 

I smiled as I typed my response: Only two more hours!

 

Happy Hour was dangling in front of me like a carrot that Friday afternoon, driving me to finish up my work so that I could reward myself by meeting my friend Shanon for some quality time together.

 

The plan was for me to meet her after work. She’s a schoolteacher, so her work day ends in the late afternoon, giving us a head start on celebrating the weekend. So once my own kids got home from school and got settled, I bolted for the door.

 

“Don’t get too crazy,” cautioned my husband.

 

I laughed – kind of crazily, I might add.

 

The moment I got in the car, I rolled down the windows and cranked up the volume on the radio. The breeze swirled around me, removing any remnants of stress that had attached to me that week and forcing them out the window. Ah, sweet release.

 

I pulled next to Shanon’s car in the parking lot. She was standing behind it with her foot up on the bumper, tying the laces on her walking shoes. She was dressed in her yoga pants and t-shirt, ready to hit the trails.

 

Trails?

 

But I thought this was Happy Hour, you say.

 

It is. It’s our version of Happy Hour (well, one of them, anyway); it’s where we escape from work and from home and find solitude on the walking trails in Joplin. At this stage of our lives, this is our definition of happiness, and we were going to enjoy an hour of it that Friday afternoon.

 

girilfriend-trails-canopy

 

That day we were walking the Frisco Greenway Trail in the north part of the city. The Frisco Trail was a “rails-to-trails” project; a 3.5-mile portion of the former St. Louis-San Francisco (Frisco) Railroad, once important to the mining industry in the Joplin and Webb City areas, was converted into a hiking and biking trail in an effort to promote a healthier community.

 

What Shanon and I like about the Frisco Trail is that it’s conveniently located within the city, yet with the canopy of trees overhead, it feels like we are miles from civilization. We passed a few joggers and bikers, but the rest of the time we had the trail to ourselves, giving us the opportunity to catch up on each other’s lives without interruption – which is a rare thing for us these days.

 

girlfriend-trails-caterpillar

We turned off the crushed gravel portion of the trail onto the paved spur that follows Turkey Creek, giving us a peaceful view of the water on one side and the woods on the other. We walked until we realized that the sun had dipped past the horizon, then we begrudgingly turned back. Happy Hour was ending just when we felt like it was getting started!

 

But once you experience Happy Hour, you’re left craving more, so as Shanon and I walked back to our cars we discussed plans for our next one.

 

And with several trail systems in the Joplin area, we could even trail-hop if we wanted to. 

 

The following Joplin trails are great places to enjoy Happy Hour. So raise your water bottle and say “Cheers!”

 

Frisco Trail: There are three parking areas available along the Frisco Trail, one at each trail head: the south end (on East North Street between North School and North Division Streets); midway (on North Saint Louis Avenue, just south of Zora Street); and the north end (behind Crowder College at Ellis and 5th Streets in Webb City). Click here for coordinates for the trailheads from the Joplin Trail’s Coalition website.

 

Turkey Creek Trail: Just east of the Frisco Trail, this 1.5-mile paved trail is hilly in some spots, but its short distance makes it doable. For those who want more of a challenge, there are some single-track trails located off of the main trail, one of which follows the edge of a bluff. The parking lot for Turkey Creek Trail is located at North Florida Avenue and Newman Road.

 

Wildcat Park: Located just south of Joplin, this park has over 4 miles of walking trails, one that cuts through the desert-like chert glade, one that winds through the woods and along the banks of sparkling Shoal Creek, and one that climbs a hill and follows the the edge of a bluff, offering a bird’s eye view of the creek below. Wildcat Park is located at 201 Riviera Drive.

 

girlfriend-trails-wildcat-bluff

 

Walter Woods Conservation Area: Also south of Joplin, this conservation area is filled with towering oak and hickory trees, tranquil ponds and a bubbling, freshwater spring. The 1-mile trail system here is paved, and pets are welcome. Walter Woods is located at 5265 Eland Road.

 

girlfriend-trails-ww-pond

 

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

Schifferdecker Golf Course

I always welcome any chance to be outside, enjoying a beautiful day in the Ozarks. And if I can do so while spending some kid-free quality time with my husband – even better.

 

Such an opportunity came my way a few weeks ago on a picture-perfect late summer day, complete with azure skies and balmy temperatures. While the kids were at school, my husband and I seized the moment, dusted off our golf clubs and zipped across town to Schifferdecker Golf Course.

 

Situated on historic Route 66 (Seventh Street) and Schifferdecker Avenue, Schifferdecker is Joplin’s only public 18-hole course. Designed by Jim “Slat” Larimere, it opened on June 29, 1922, and each year it hosts the Ozark Amateur, one of the oldest medal-play tournaments in the U.S.

 

Schiff golf clubhouse

While I wasn’t expecting to win a trophy on the day we went (I hadn’t played since before having kids), I did hope to learn a tip or two from my, ahem, ever-patient husband who is much more experienced than I am at playing golf.

 

We checked in at the historic clubhouse, and took a moment to look around the inside which is filled with photos of past golf champs like Leonard Ott, a local pro who won the 1929 Ozark Amateur.

 

Schiff golf ott

There’s also a map hanging on the wall, dated April 4, 1965. It gave me an overview of what I could expect on the course that day.

 

Schiff golf map

In order to cover that distance efficiently (like, before the kids got home from school), my husband and I picked up the keys to these fancy wheels.

 

Schiff golf carts

At the first hole, I was excited to reacquaint myself with my favorite golf club, the driver, and to hear the thwacking sound it makes when it contacts the ball. I couldn’t wait to see my ball sail over hundreds of yards of Schifferdecker’s Bermuda fairways.

 

schiff golf fairway

Did I say yards? I meant feet. And not hundreds of them. But, hey, a girl can dream.

 

While the course is relatively flat, there are some small rolling hills. Growing up in Illinois, I was used to flat golf courses, so when we came across this periscope at the second hole, my husband had to explain its purpose to me.

 

Schiff golf peri

He instructed me to look through the periscope to see if the golfers in front of us had finished playing the second hole and had cleared the valley. Luckily I checked; otherwise my super fierce drive might have knocked one of them out cold.

 

I’m glad I didn’t hit anyone that day, and I’m relieved that I never had to fish my ball out of any water, either. Fortunately, Schifferdecker’s course only has two areas of water, and my ball somehow managed to avoid them.

 

Schiff golf water

While my favorite part of the game was driving the ball down the fairway, my best strokes that day proved to be on the green. After all, I’ve honed my putting skills after years of mini-golf with the kids.

 

Schiff golf green

What are the best things about playing golf at Schifferdecker Golf Course? It’s open year-round, it’s accessible to golfers of all skill levels, and the fees are very reasonable.

 

schiff golf swing

When I asked my husband what he thought about Schifferdecker’s course, he said that he liked its openness because it makes for a much more forgiving course.

 

Hmm, I wonder if he’s forgiven the tree that his ball ricocheted off of and then sent flying over to the neighboring fairway…

 

 

Schifferdecker Golf Course is located at 506 South Schifferdecker Avenue. Click here to visit its website.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

Joplin Arts Fest

Ah, 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.  While art is the star of the festival, you can also listen to live music, grab a bite to eat from one of the food trucks, cool down with a drink from the beer/wine tent, and watch the kids get creative doing artistic activities (and get their faces painted, too).

 

joplin arts fest overall

The tranquil setting of Joplin’s Mercy Park serves as a backdrop for this festival which features over 40 local and regional artists displaying a variety of work. There’s pottery, glass art, sculptures, drawings, photography, woodworking, and jewelry. Here are some of the highlights of art I saw, along with links to the artists’ websites so you can see for yourself how gifted they are.

 

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

 

joplin arts-fest-wooden-doerr

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

 

arts-fest-wooden-doerr-turquoise

The work of Andrew Batcheller, a Kansas City native living in Joplin, has an otherworldly feeling to it.

 

joplin arts fest batcheller

Batcheller frequently uses birds as subjects to represent the human condition. His work is powerful and deep, and I find myself seeking the artist’s description of his work in order to fully understand the meaning behind each piece.

 

Sometimes photographs can look like paintings, and the work of Ron Mellott of Bloomington, Indiana, is an example of that. Here is a photo he took of some aspens in autumn in Colorado.

 

joplin arts fest mellott

Now for Natalie Wiseman, a previous Joplin Arts Fest Best in Show winner.

 

arts-fest-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-wiseman-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.

 

arts-fest-fish-painting

Live music has its place at Joplin Arts Fest, as well.  There’s a pavilion next to the water where local musicians perform throughout the day. Past performers include JOMO JazzJoshin the Giants (bluegrass and country), Kufara (a marimba ensemble), and Ozark Bards (folk songs of the Ozarks).

 

joplin arts fest music

Cool off with an adult beverage from the beer/wine tent, and be sure to sample from the variety of food trucks at the festival, including Blondies Woodfired Wheelhouse PizzaEl Taco Loco (street tacos), Fried Fancies (gourmet funnel cakes), and Pineapple Bliss (low-calorie, soft-serve frozen treats).

 

joplin arts fest-pineapple-bliss

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 beautiful Mercy Park to celebrate the beauty of the season at Joplin Arts Fest.

 


Joplin Arts Fest is held at Mercy Park, 3002 St. John’s Boulevard. For details about this year’s event, visit JoplinArtsFest.com.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

 

(Updated 9/21/18)

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.

 

waters-edge-girls-float-selfie

 

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.

 

waters-edge-sign

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

 
waters-edge-girls-float-creek

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 JoplinMOLife.com.

Girls’ Weekend in Joplin

Back in 1982, the bubbly all-girl rock band, the Go-Go’s, released a song that I immediately adopted as my holiday anthem.

 

Vacation, all I ever wanted

Vacation, had to get away

 

The Go-Go’s showed me that spending time with my girlfriends could be a blast; in the video for their songVacation,” I watched all five of these band members and friends water ski in formation while wearing tutus and tiaras.

 

It was ridiculous and fun, and after seeing their video, I vowed to be as carefree as the Go-Go’s and to continue to make time to play with my friends – even as a grown-up.

 

So, did I keep that vow?

 

Although it can be challenging these days to round up my friends, find tiaras and tutus, and rent waterskis, I do try to fit in some girl time whenever possible. Recently, I was able to get my friends to agree to an entire weekend of play. I thought long and hard about where we could go and what we could do, and finally came up with an itinerary that would maximize our fun time.

 

I suggested doing a staycation right here in Joplin.

 

By booking a room at a local hotel, we’d still be able to get away from our everyday responsibilities, plus we’d have more time for doing fun things because we wouldn’t have to spend time in the car traveling to another city.

 

My friends agreed. We packed our bags, said goodbye to our families, and transformed ourselves into tourists in our hometown for one blissful weekend.

 

Friday

We kicked off our staycation on a Friday afternoon by heading to downtown Joplin to do some serious shopping. I felt giddy about being able to take my time perusing the hip boutiques and markets. I could linger at these stores because there were no time limitations on this staycation, either. That is, we could stay and shop until the stores closed their doors. And, I was prepared to do just that.

 

blue moon canopy
Hours later, we suddenly realized that we were ravenous. We wanted a nearby place where we could rest our feet and enjoy a good meal. We chose to eat at the Red Onion Cafe, a casual urban restaurant that’s been one of the top restaurants in Joplin since it opened in 1995.

 

Saturday

It’s an unwritten rule that any girls’ weekend must include some form of pampering. This is one rule that I have no intention of ever breaking. So, after a light breakfast at the hotel, my friends and I spent the rest of the morning letting others take care of us at Oasis Salon and Day Spa, a full-service spa and salon, where the magical staff is always able to melt away the stress in my life and leave me feeling blissful.

 

oasis fountain

 

Why is it that time at the spa seems to go so quickly? Before I knew it, it was lunchtime. We decided to eat at Ichiban, a sushi restaurant close to Oasis. Light and healthy, sushi was the perfect post-spa meal.

 

Still, we were exhausted from being catered to all morning, so we went back to the hotel to nap. Such problems, right?

 

When we woke up, we wanted to get outside and enjoy the fresh air, so we decided to take a walk through Joplin’s original residential district, Murphysburg. The grand homes here still stand proud, more than a century after they were built. Seeing the different architectural styles and learning the history of the homes made this a unique and memorable walk.

 

Tour Schifferdecker

 

Since Murphysburg is just a few blocks from bustling Main Street, we chose to finish off our evening enjoying cocktails and dinner at the popular Club 609. There’s a daily happy hour here, which made us very, very happy. The food here ranges from light appetizers to casual gourmet entrees, and is consistently delicious.

 

Sunday

The last day of our staycation. Sniff Sniff. We checked out of the hotel and headed straight to our favorite breakfast place, The Bruncheonette. It might not look like much on the outside, but this farm-to-table establishment creates breakfast, brunch, and lunch items that make your mouth sing.

 

brunch micro greens

 

After stuffing ourselves at The Bruncheonette, we desperately fought off the urge to nap. My friend suggested another walk downtown. Because it was Sunday, I didn’t think we’d be able to see much, but she reminded me that there are things that we can see and appreciate in Joplin any day of the year: our town’s murals. Appreciating public art on a beautiful day? Count me in.

 

keltoi teardrops 2

 

The mural tour took about an hour, leaving us plenty of time for the last stop on our staycation: Keltoi Winery. Located just north of Joplin in Oronogo, Missouri, Keltoi is an Irish winery that offers wine tastings and the perfect location to chill with your friends for an afternoon. And we did just that, chatting on the patio and sipping our wine right up until Keltoi closed for the day.

 

Staycation, all I ever wanted

 

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

 

Emancipation Park Days

The soulful sound of gospel music emanates from the tent, the smoky scent of barbecue hangs in the muggy summer air, and children giggle as they play tag on the lush green lawn.

 

These familiar sights and sounds represent a homecoming of sorts.

 

Each year, people mark their calendars for this one weekend in August when the expansive lawn of Joplin’s Ewert Park is covered with tents, food trucks, booths, and people – people who come to reunite with old friends, celebrate their heritage, and welcome newcomers (like me) to share in some old-fashioned summertime fun.

 

This three-day August event is called Emancipation Park Days, and it falls on the weekend closest to August 4, which is the day designated to honor the emancipation of the American slave in Joplin, as well as in neighboring towns.

 

Since the 1920s, this gathering has been held annually at Ewert Park. This year, the event’s schedule was jam-packed, from Friday evening through Sunday evening, with family-friendly events, including gospel and funk music, a basketball tournament, a fun run/walk, a variety of kids’ activities (including free swimming at Ewert Pool), a car show, a Sunday church service, and – like any great festival – plenty of food and drinks (even a beer tent).

 

eman-days-tent

There was no room for boredom at this cultural affair.

 

Which is exactly why my friend Julie and I brought our youngest kids here. With a couple weeks left until the beginning of school, we wanted to make some unique and fun memories with them before summer ended.

 

eman-days-red-car

We came to Emancipation Park Days on Saturday, the second day of the event. While the August sky was heavy with clouds, the rain stayed away while we were there, allowing us to linger in the comfortably shaded park.

 

The first thing our kids did was the children’s drum craft; they wrapped masking tape around empty plastic coffee containers, then then personalized their drums with their own drawings.

 

eman-days-drum-decor-2

Then they scored some cute balloon dogs from Crazy Dave’s Balloon Animals.

 

eman-days-balloon

Our kids were having a blast with their loot, but I have to admit, we mamas were running out of arms to carry said loot – and we’d only visited two booths by that point.

 

We lingered awhile at the Bikers Against Child Abuse (B.A.C.A) booth, where our kids got their faces painted (and got to sit on a bike), and Julie and I stood, mouths agape, as we learned about this amazing organization. Its mission is to empower abused children to feel safe, and its members – the bikers – do this by going to a child’s house to provide reassurance, or by accompanying a child to court and parole hearings.

 

eman-days-motorcycle

It melted our hearts to hear tough-looking motorcycle bikers talking tenderly about protecting and empowering children who, without the bikers, might continue to feel powerless and voiceless. I was so impressed by B.A.C.A.’s work that I could go on and on about them, but instead I’ll just include a link about them here if you’re interested in learning more.

 

Now back to Emancipation Park Days.

 

We were all starting to get hungry at this point, so the kids snacked on hot dogs while Julie and I treated ourselves to some tender pulled pork sandwiches from A.C.’s BBQ. Naturally, the kids begged for ice cream afterward, so we got them treats from the wildly popular Pineapple Bliss. We didn’t tell them that they weren’t eating actual ice cream but a dairy-free, healthful substitute instead. They didn’t notice.

 

We then made our way back to the children’s pavilion so the kids could participate in the drum circle and dance that was led by members of the African Student Association from Pittsburg State University.

 

eman-days-drum-circle-seated

The kids enthusiastically tested out their coffee-tub drums that they made earlier, trying earnestly to keep up with the drum leader’s rhythm. At one point, the drum leader asked the kids to stand up and follow him in a circle while he drummed, and the kids let their bodies move to the beat as they danced.

 

eman-days-drum-circle

Sweaty after all of that activity, the kids were eager to join in the water balloon toss.

 

eman-days-water-balloon

 

After a few good tosses, their balloon burst on the ground in front of them, spraying them with a teeny bit of water – but not enough to cool them down.

 

eman-days-watermelon

Instead, a couple of slices of sweet, refreshing watermelon did the trick, quenching their thirst and providing relief from the heat.

 

While they snacked on the watermelon, Julie and I had the chance to read the display walls featuring a timeline of black history in the area.

 

eman-days-1946

Among many other things, we learned about Carver Nursery School, which was named after George Washington Carver, an area inventor, educator and humanitarian – and one of my idols (you can read more about Carver and the national park dedicated to him here).

 

eman-days-history

Carver Nursery School was founded in 1951 as a preschool and elementary school for African American children in Joplin. Area African American teenagers attended Lincoln High School until the late 1950s when they joined the other students at Joplin Senior High School.

 

As someone who moved to Joplin in the ‘90s, I had no idea about this part of Joplin’s history. The African American culture is so integrated now in this town that it’s hard to imagine life otherwise. But it’s important to learn about how things were in the not-so-distant past, and I’m glad that this education is a part of the Emancipation Park Days event.

 

We were lingering by the history boards when we saw a crowd begin to form around the tennis courts. “The Cobras must be here,” Julie said.

 

eman-days-cobras1

And they were. We could hear the shrill sound of a whistle and the feel the beats coming from the percussion as The Kansas City Marching Cobras made a spectacular entrance at Ewert Park.

 

This well-known drill team, which has performed for multiple U.S. presidents, combines dance moves from African dance, jazz, and hip hop into its choreography.

 

eman-days-cobras2

The tennis courts at Ewert Park provided a stage for the Cobras, allowing people to watch the team from multiple sides. I watched as our kids leaned on the tennis court fence, transfixed by the energy and movement of the drill team.

 

No video games had been played today. No iPads had been turned on. The kids had been thoroughly entertained at a decades-old cultural festival.

 

And our summer ended with the creation of new memories.

 

For more information on Emancipation Park Days, click here.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

 

Joplin History and Mineral Museum

Woolly mammoth fossils.

 

Arrowheads.

 

Glowing rocks.

 

Where in Joplin can you see these cool items?  At the Joplin History & Mineral Museum in Schifferdecker Park.

 

The museum complex is located just west of the aquatic center. Outside of the entrance, visitors are greeted by a dinosaur sculpture which stands about six feet tall and is made from scrap metal and other items such as license plates. Kids will get a kick out of it.

 

joplin-museum-dinosaur

The complex houses a variety of collections. The exhibit displays are informative and offer some unique items to view. In the Everett J. Ritchie Tri-State Mineral Museum, huge slabs of rocks and minerals are displayed in an area that resembles the inside of a mine shaft.

 

joplin-museum-rocks

On the way up to the second floor, there’s a case containing fossil remains of a woolly mammoth and some Native American arrowheads – all discovered in the four-state area.

 

joplin-museum-mammoth

The exhibit continues upstairs, where it traces the lead and zinc mining history of the area. There are maps of the mining areas and I was curious to see if my house was built over a mine shaft. It wasn’t.

 

I was fascinated by the exhibit showing which minerals are found in everyday household products.

 

joplin-museum-products

“Galena: Lead ore used in batteries and detergents. The production of lead leaves bismuth which is used in Pepto-Bismol.”

Meanwhile, my kids were fixated on the display of fluorescent minerals. Here’s what they look light with a standard light on them.

 

joplin-museum-rocks-light

Here’s what happens after they are exposed to a long-wave light.

 

joplin-museum-rocks-glow

No wonder my kids kept pressing the long-wave light button; it was so mesmerizing to see those seemingly ordinary rocks transform into glowing, alien-like formations.

 

On the other side of the museum complex, the Dorothea B. Hoover Historical Museum houses a variety of collections that focus on the history and culture of the Joplin area. Highlights of this section include artifacts from the House of Lords, a famous saloon from Joplin’s mining days.

 

joplin-museum-lords

This roulette wheel from the 1890s was in the second floor of the House of Lords.

And jewelry that was recovered from Bonnie and Clyde’s Joplin hideout in 1933.

 

joplin-museum-necklace-1
Other exhibits at the complex include the Joplin Sports Authority Sports Hall of Fame, the National Historical Cookie Cutter Museum, and the Merle Evans Circus Tent #27 Miniature Circus (my daughter spent about twenty minutes staring wide-eyed at this miniature circus that fills an entire room).

 

joplin-museum-circus-2

Every citizen in Joplin should make at least one visit to the Joplin History & Mineral Museum to gain a sense Joplin’s rich history.

 

Oh, and to see the cool glowing rocks, too.

 

 

 The Joplin History & Mineral Museum is located at 504 S. Schifferdecker Avenue.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

 

Carthage Civil War Museum

Did you know that the first full-scale land battle of the Civil War was fought near Carthage, Missouri?

 

I didn’t.

 

Sure, I’m not a Civil War expert, but I’m familiar with what I’d previously thought was the first major land battle of that war: Bull Run.

 

Yet, the Battle of Carthage (also called the Battle of Dry Fork) was fought on July 5, 1861.

 

That was 16 days prior to Bull Run.

 

I learned about this important Missouri battle when I visited the Civil War Museum, located just off the downtown square in Carthage.

 

civil war museum outside

Located in an old fire station, the museum faces another historic building: the handsome limestone Carthage post office, which was built in 1896.

 

civil war museum po close

The moment I walked inside the Civil War Museum, I was wowed by this stunning mural by local artist Andy Thomas, which depicts the burning of the Carthage square during the war.

 

civil war museum thomas mural

The museum itself is small, yet informative. By reading through the exhibits, watching the short video, and studying the diorama of the battle itself, I learned quite a bit.

 

The battle itself involved 1,100 German-American Union soldiers from St. Louis, led by Colonel Franz Sigel. Confederate Governor Claiborne F. Jackson led the Missouri State Guard, commanding about 6,000 men. This was the only time in history that a sitting governor has led troops in the field.

 

The battle was a victory for the Confederacy.

 

Here are some other things I discovered at the museum:

 

“Petticoat Flag” 

Here’s the story behind this painting by Andy Thomas: Union supporter Norris C. Hood lived on the Carthage square with his family. Secretly, his daughters had made a U.S. flag and placed it among daughter Lucy’s petticoats in order to keep it hidden from the many local Confederate supporters.

 

But on July 4, 1861, when Colonel Sigel’s troops entered Carthage before the battle, Lucy removed the flag and proudly waved it overhead as a welcome to the Union soldiers.

 

civil war museum petticoat

Weapons and Ammunition

It’s always fascinating to see artifacts from the fields.

 

civil war museum ammo

Belle Starr

Called the “Bandit Queen,” Belle Starr led quite a colorful life. She was described as an attractive teenager with a bold personality.

 

civil war museum belle

Yep, that’s bold.

 

Born as Myra Maebelle Shirley in 1848 just north of Carthage, Starr was the daughter of a hotel-tavern owner who supported the Confederacy. Take a walk on the north side of the Carthage square and look for this building.

 

civil war museum starr hotel

In front of the building, you’ll find this marker.

 

civil war museum starr hotel site

Starr would often entertain the hotel guests here with her skills on the piano.

 

But then the Civil War came to Carthage; in 1864, her brother Bud was killed by a Union soldier in nearby Sarcoxie. Enraged by the loss of her brother, Starr began living her life brazenly, going on to marry a series of outlaws, and ultimately suffering fatal gunshot wounds in 1889.

 

She did give birth to one daughter, Pearl, and one of the museum’s exhibits shows a portion of a letter that Starr wrote to her daughter while in prison.

 

civil war museum belle letter

 

civil war museum letter typed

The Burning of Carthage

The Civil War brought fires to the town in 1863 and 1864, destroying most of its buildings, including the courthouse. The current courthouse, which was built in 1894-95 on the same site, is one of the most photographed buildings in Missouri.

 

One structure that did survive the war was the Kendrick House. The oldest home in Jasper County, the Kendrick House was used as a command center for both sides during the war. It’s a short drive from the square and is located at 131 North Garrison Street.

 

civil war museum kendrick

It wasn’t long after my initial visit to the Civil War Museum that I returned, this time bringing my parents who were visiting from Chicago. My dad loves Civil War anything. He majored in history in college, so our summer family vacations always included stops at historical locations like Gettysburg and Vicksburg.

 

Because of that, you’d think I’d have a strong knowledge of the major Civil War battles, but I don’t. I simply have memories of staring at battlefields through glassy eyes and offering pained teenaged sighs to anyone within earshot.

 

But I’m happy to say that my war museum etiquette has improved dramatically as I’ve matured, and I welcomed the opportunity to prove this to my parents by bringing them to the Civil War Museum in Carthage.

 

I’m glad I did, because my second visit to the museum was enriched by the added information that my history-loving father provided as we walked through the displays.

 

And this time, I listened without sighing.

 

The Carthage Civil War Museum is located at 205 South Grant Street in Carthage, Missouri. Click here for more information. 

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

Keltoi Winery

You wouldn’t think you’d find it here, right in the middle of farmland in southwest Missouri.

 

But here it is.

 

Its bright yellow building acts like a beacon for visitors, letting them know that their quest has come to a fruitful end on this quiet country road.

 

Like a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, Keltoi Winery offers visitors a treasure of sorts: the rare and precious chance to while away an afternoon, sipping wine and spending time with friends and family.

 

keltoi arbor

Carrie in front of her pot of gold.

 

The leprechaun guarding this particular pot of gold is Erv Langan, the gregarious owner of Keltoi Winery. Erv refers to himself as a “chubby leprechaun,” and even if you don’t like wine, it’s worth the drive to Keltoi just to meet this man whose personality is larger than life.

 

keltoi erv 2

Erv

My husband joined me on my first visit to Keltoi. We lounged inside by the cozy fire, since it was wintertime. On my most recent visit, he served as chauffeur. He kindly dropped off me and my friend Carrie at the winery so that we could imbibe freely. But you don’t need my husband to drive you to Keltoi; just pace yourself and enjoy responsibly – and always have a designated driver.

 

keltoi barrel front

 

To figure out which Keltoi wine best suited our palates, Carrie and I ordered a wine tasting, which allowed us to sample around 10 varieties of Keltoi wines for just $6 each. We began the wine tasting inside the bright yellow building, where there are several tables to sit at, as well as a comfy seating arrangement by the fireplace.

 

keltoi guests

 

We sat on the sofa with a plate of crackers nearby so that we could clear our palate between each trying wine. Then, the wine fest began.

 

I’ll just highlight a few of the wines here so I don’t spoil the experience for you when you go to Keltoi (because you’ll want to go to find your own pot of gold, right?).

 

Red Wines
The Norton is the most popular red wine at Keltoi, and it’s made from the Norton grape, which is the state grape of Missouri. I didn’t even know we had a state grape.

 

Biddy Early is named after an Irish woman who was thought to have possessed mystical powers. This name suits the wine because it’s a bit magical: it has a smoky aroma but, thanks to the flavors of cinnamon and clove, “tastes like Christmas,” according to Carrie. This would be a great wine to enjoy during the winter holidays.

 

Red Shamrock is my favorite red wine at Keltoi because it tastes very similar to a merlot, which I love to drink. A medium-bodied wine, it presents a mix of fruit, earth, and spice. It’s made from the Chambourcin grape, which is a French-American hybrid.

 

keltoi teardrops 2

 

White Wines and Fruit Wines
Irish Raindrops, a semi-sweet wine, is the most popular white wine at Keltoi, and the one most requested for weddings.

 

I’m usually not a sweet wine drinker, but I really enjoyed Irish Moondrops, which tasted like butterscotch to me. I love butterscotch.

 

As for fruit wines, we sampled pear, apple, and peach. All were delicious, and each one’s flavor was true to its fruit. The apple and pear wines reminded me of fall, and the peach wine reminded me of summer.

 

A wine tasting at Keltoi can take as long as you want it to, and for Carrie and I, it lasted a few hours. But that’s the beauty of this. Unlike happy hour at Sonic, where drinks are guzzled down to quench thirst, a wine tasting at Keltoi is an experience to be enjoyed mindfully, and to savor.

 

Keltoi was bustling with activity on the Sunday afternoon that we visited. Tables were filled with couples playing cards while they shared a bottle of wine (my husband and I will have to try that soon), as well as groups of girlfriends chatting away, just like Carrie and me.

 

Canine friends graced our presence that day, as well. There was Kayga, Erv’s quiet old pal.

 

keltoi kayga

 

And this sweet guy, too.

 

 

keltoi sneakers

 

This is Sneakers, who recently chose Erv to be his person. Erv named him Sneakers because he likes to sneak food when no one is looking.

 

keltoi sneakers crackers

Must. Sneak. Cracker.

 

If you’re not a dog person, don’t worry. The dogs here will leave you alone unless you specifically show them attention. Since I was with Carrie, the pied piper of the canine world, we enjoyed our share of puppy time.

 

Halfway through our wine tasting, Carrie and I moved outside to the patio so that we could enjoy the beautiful spring day. My plan was to finish our tasting and then walk the grounds of the winery, since the last time I’d been there it was winter and too cold for a stroll.

 

keltoi patio 2

 

Keltoi has a mile-long walking trail, and an area called Maynooth, which I was curious to explore. Named after an ancient site in Ireland, Maynooth contains a Fairy Circle encircling a Tree of Life, as well as a replica of the megalithic site Nine Ladies.
But my plans were halted when I saw my husband driving our mini-van into the parking lot. I swear it was morphing into a pumpkin with each rotation of its wheels.
Ladies’ afternoon at the winery had come to an end.

Still, the magical feeling that we’d experienced that day stayed with us as we drove away. Like a generous leprechaun, Erv had shared a piece of his gold with us, and we felt a bit richer because of it.

 

 

Keltoi Winery is located at 17705 County Road 260 in Oronogo, Missouri.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.