Zerkapalooza has made Joplin cool.


Or should I say lit? After all, that’s what the youngsters are saying these days. And there were a lot of youngsters, as well as upper-youngsters (as I like to think of myself and my friends), at last year’s event.


Zerkapalooza is a laid-back, talent-packed musical bonanza that highlights the area’s homegrown artists. Similar to the well-known Chicago festival Lollapalooza, which has been attracting huge crowds for over a quarter of a century, Zerkapalooza celebrates creativity and fun.


Zerka is like Lolla’s little offspring living in southwest Missouri, infusing the Ozarks with its cosmopolitan genes. I’m thrilled that Zerka is here because now we can experience what Lolla is like without traveling 600 miles or having to fight monstrous crowds and traffic.


I’d say that’s a pretty nice deal.


And Zerkapalooza is an annual event that is open to people of all ages, which means that I get to hang with my teenager, listen to great music, and feel like a younger-youngster for a couple of days each year.  


Last year, my friend and I took our daughters to Zerkapalooza for a girls’ night out, and my daughter still talks about how much fun she had. That’s right, she had fun with her mother. I’m pretty proud of myself for scoring a victory on this one.


I had a blast with her, too. We walked through the heart of downtown Joplin, visiting several venues to listen to different bands. One of my favorite musicians was performing; her name is Olivia Wu, and she’s a singer, songwriter, and guitar player.


And a teenager.


zerka olivia


So not only did I want to hear Olivia’s beautiful voice, I wanted my daughter to witness the magic that happens when a person – a teenager – follows his or her passion. Heck, Olivia inspires me every time I listen to her.


Olivia won’t be gracing this year’s Zerkapalooza because of a scheduling conflict, but she’s not the only source of inspiration you’ll find at the festival. There’s a huge lineup of many other talented area bands, which you can find here.


New to Zerkapalooza this year is the food truck component, which will be set up right in front of Memorial Hall. Adding food trucks to a music fest is like adding jelly to a peanut butter sandwich; it just makes a good thing even better.


But wait – there’s more! In addition to food trucks, there’ll also be non-musical entertainment, again for people of all ages, like a petting zoo, dunk tank, rock wall, bungee run, and – I’m a bit out of my mind about this one – a Wipeout Challenge on inflatables!


My family used to watch the show Wipeout together religiously. Have you seen this show? Google it. It’s hilarious to watch people making their way through larger-than-life obstacle courses, and even more hilarious watching them wipe out (don’t worry, they’re not harmed in any way – I don’t laugh at people getting hurt, I assure you).


Now I’ll have the chance to be one of those lucky participants and my family can get a good laugh watching me wipe out.


With all of the options for experiencing fun at this festival, I think the theme for Zerkapalooza should be “carpe diem.”


Or as today’s youngsters say: YOLO!


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