Third Thursday

A few years ago, when I first heard a friend throw out the term “Third Thursday,” I thought she was merely referring to a day that was near the weekend, and near the end of the month – kind of a weekend wannabe. I had no idea that she was talking about an actual organized event held in downtown Joplin.

 

But times have changed.

 

These days, most everyone I talk to in Joplin has either heard of – or been to – Third Thursday. This event’s popularity has grown, along with its number of vendors and attendees.

 

But if you’ve never been to a Third Thursday and are wondering what all of the excitement is about, here’s what you can expect.

 

There’s art, music, dancing, food, shopping, giveaways, a car show, activities for kids – you name it. It’s a day when the spotlight is on downtown Joplin, highlighting the unique businesses, restaurants and cultural amenities that make our city vibrant.

 

third thursday 2016

On the third Thursday of each month from March through October, Main Street is blocked off from car traffic and transforms into a pedestrian area between First and Seventh Streets, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Performance stages, vendor tents and food trucks are set up on the street, and downtown buildings open their doors to feature art displays.

 

One thing that really impressed me on a recent Third Thursday was the multitude of food trucks and vendors that now participate in the event.

 

third thursday harvs bbq

These vendors offered a wide range of food choices: King’s Kettle CornAJ’s Eatery (BBQ), Carmine’s Woodfired PizzaSweet Emotion (hand-dipped chocolates and fruit), and SnowFlakes Shaved Ice.

 

third thursday pineapple bliss

Tip: If the you see the Pineapple Bliss truck at Third Thursday, get in line immediately!

 

We initially walked past it when there was a handful of people anxiously anticipating their fruity soft serve treats, and we thought we’d come back when the line went down. Ha ha! Later on, the line was snaking halfway down the street.

 

In addition to the food trucks, downtown restaurants are open during Third Thursday, and several of them offer extended patio areas that spill out into the streets, like this one from the hip lounge and restaurant Infuxn.

 

third thursday infuxn

When we were done grazing through the food vendors, we walked around and checked out the artists on display. Here are some that caught my eye:


third thursday barrel werksBarrel Werks’ home furnishings are made from retired wine barrels.

 

third thursday penny fairmanPenny Fairman Art (Penny is a Kansas City artist with family in the Joplin area)

 

third thursday downingCorey Downing creates art from vinyl LPs

 

third thursday hannah snowJoplin artist Hannah Snow

 

If seeing this artwork awakens the inner artist in you, there are several downtown studios open during Third Thursday to accommodate your burning desire, including Firehouse PotteryRSVPaint, and Local Color Art Gallery (a few blocks south on Main Street).

 

third thursday rsvp

Art is not only something to appreciate visually; sometimes we drink and eat it. Some of the Third Thursday artisans offering ingestible art were:

 

third thursday bearded lady

Bearded Lady Roasters

 

third thursday home brewJoplin Home Brew Club (crafting beer is an art, too)

 

third thursday grannys goodiesDog treats from Granny’s Goodies

 

I think Granny sold out of her dog treats within the first hour due to the incredibly high number of canine attendees that night. Hey, doesn’t everyone – and every dog (on a leash, of course) – deserve to have fun night out?

 

Going to Third Thursday also gives me the chance to browse through my two favorite downtown boutiques, since they keep their doors open during the event:  Sophie and Blue Moon Boutique. For people who are into fitness, a downtown store worth visiting is Runaround Running & Lifestyle Co., which has an experienced and helpful staff that can help with your running/walking needs.

 

So with looking at artwork and browsing through stores, it sounds like kids would be bored stiff at Third Thursday, right? Wrong! There were bounce houses, interactive booths, a man making animals out of balloons, and the Art Feeds’ bus which is there each month with a fun art project for the kids to do.

 

Third Thursday Art Feeds

Another Third Thursday tradition is having your picture taken in 9Art Photography’s themed photo booth. Can you guess what the theme was for our session?

 

third thursday 9 art photo

My facial expression might lead you to think that it’s “I just bit into a sour lemon” day, but the theme was actually “Windy Day.”

 

Another fun Third Thursday photo op is having your picture taken in this ginormous rocking chair in front of the former Joplin Public Library.

 

third thursday rocking chair

For vintage and muscle car buffs, there’s a section near First Street that’s reserved for displaying cars. It was also a big hit for people whose favorite color is orange.

 

third thursday orange carShe loves orange!

 

While walking between exhibits, we passed several performance stages where local dancers and musicians were entertaining the crowd.

 

third thursday twirlSometimes the music just moves you…

 

We detoured off of Main Street to catch a performance of one of my favorite local singers, high-schooler Olivia Wu, who was playing at Joplin Avenue Coffee Company.

 

third thursday olivia wu

My middle daughter and I chilled out in the comfy coffee house chairs and listened to Olivia’s mind-blowing voice while my husband took my youngest daughter to the bounce houses – again.

 

At Third Thursday, everybody’s happy, and everybody wins.

 

Third Thursday sunset

Third Thursday events are organized by the Downtown Joplin Alliance. 

 

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

Carl Junction Bluegrass Festival

This is the poster child of festivals.

 

This thought came to my mind after being at the Carl Junction Bluegrass Festival for a mere ten minutes on a picture-perfect September afternoon. This festival had it all: live music, a variety of food, arts and crafts vendors, community organization booths, a car show, and kids activities, all nestled in the shade provided by the sprawling limbs of the trees in beautiful Center Creek Park. Plus, the event organization was seamless, with volunteers directing traffic, driving shuttles, and providing information to attendees.

 

True, the organizers of the Carl Junction Bluegrass Festival have had a little time to refine the details of this event – like over 20 years – and the festival, which is held the fourth weekend of September every year, now brings more than 15,000 people to the southwest Missouri town of Carl Junction.

 

bluegrass festival overview

Historically, this has been a Saturday-only event, but in 2018, two more days of activities were added to the festival. On Friday night, the Indoor Bluegrass Jamboree was held at Carl Junction’s Stark Auditorium, featuring three bluegrass bands. On Sunday, Pick’n & Picnic’n in the Park (I dare you to say that three times fast!) invited families to eat a picnic lunch in Center Creek Park while listening to the music of the Picker’s Post Band.

 

I visited the festival on Saturday, when it was held from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Center Creek Park. I arrived in the early afternoon, and it was pretty crowded. But Center Creek Park is large, allowing ample room for both people and cars, and I didn’t have any trouble finding a parking space. Shuttles were available for those who parked in the free parking areas; there was also a $5 VIP parking option for those who wanted to park near the entrance. But even though I parked in the free parking area, I still didn’t have to walk far before I was immersed in the sights and sounds of the festival.

 

 

Music

Each year, the festival organizers invite visitors to bring their own lawn chairs to relax in while they listen to the stars of the festival: the bluegrass musicians. To me, bluegrass brings to mind banjos, fiddles, and mandolins, but have you ever really wondered where this music came from? Well, I did. So I did some research.

 

According to the Bluegrass Heritage Foundation, bluegrass has its roots in the songs about country life that were sung by those who migrated to America from Ireland, Scotland, and England and settled in rural areas in the Appalachian region. In the early part of the 20th century, the classic bluegrass style as we now know it was formed, blending country, jazz, Celtic, rock, and gospel music styles.

 

And now you know.

 

Well maybe you knew all of this before, but at least now I know.

 

Back to the Carl Junction Bluegrass Festival. The music began flowing from the stage at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, and there was a sea of people kicking back in their lawn chairs enjoying the lively music of bands like No Apparent Reason, Berry Wynn & The Fly by Night Band, and That Dalton Gang, who was playing when I took this photo.

 

bluegrass festival band

 

 

Food

What makes listening to live music even better? Why, food, of course! The Carl Junction Bluegrass Festival had a wide array of dining options to choose from including: Ghetto Tacos, Clark’s Cuisine (barbecue), King’s Kettle Korn, and more.

 

 

bluegrass festival fred and reds

Fred & Red’s (spaghetti red and Frito pie)

 

bluegrass festival kona ice

Kona Ice

 

 

Vendors

When I reached the last food truck, I discovered an additional area filled with arts and crafts tents and community organization information.

 

bluegrass festival vendors

Then I realized it led to another vendor area, and then another. This festival was bigger than I’d expected!

 

Here are some of the vendors that were at the festival:

 

bluegrass festival everything crocheted

Everything Crochet by Lori

 

bluegrass festival plaid anvil

The Plaid Anvil (embellished/bleached plaids and leather goods)

 

bluegrass festival kimberlys jellies

Kimberly’s Jellies & Jams (a variety of jelly and jam flavors, including Mountain Dew and Coke, and avocado jalapeno, which I bought)

 

bluegrass festival bjs creations

BJS Creations (jewelry, baby bibs)

 

 

bluegrass festival kimbriel goods

Kimbriel Custom Crafts (handmade pens, razors, and holiday ornaments)

 

bluegrass festival surplus usa2

Surplus USA (metal art)

 

 

 

Car and Bike Show

I continued to walk through park, the energetic notes of bluegrass carrying me along the way. I came to the Car and Bike Show area, where rows of vehicles from different eras gave glimpses into times gone by.

 

bluegrass festival car show

Judging for the show started at noon, and trophies were given out at 2 p.m. This beauty was one of my favorites.

 

bluegrass festival red car

 

Kids’ Activities

Even the little ones had an area dedicated to them at the Carl Junction Bluegrass Festival. Bounce houses, pony rides, a petting zoo, face painting, and an art project kept them occupied.

 

bluegrass festival kids area

But if they needed a break from all of the stimulation, they just had to take a few steps to the quiet banks of Center Creek, where they could dip their toes in the sparkling water or search for wildlife.

 

bluegrass festival center creek

With its idyllic setting, and family-friendly, alcohol-free environment, filled with music, food, and arts and crafts, it’s easy to see why the Carl Junction Bluegrass Festival attracts so many people to this neck of the woods each September.

 

 

For more information on the Carl Junction Bluegrass Festival, click here.

 

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

 

Joplin Empire Market

It’s Friday night, and I pull my minivan up to the ATM. I’m as fired up as a high schooler getting cash before heading out on a big date. I do have a date of sorts – with my daughter. The following morning we are going to Joplin Empire Market.

 

Yes, I’m fired up about a market. But this isn’t just a place to pick up a few produce items; Joplin Empire Market is a weekly event that showcases local products and local talent, and fosters a sense of connection in our community.

 

joplin empire interior

I know that I will see some vendors whose storefront businesses I’ve visited and written about before, and I’ll also discover new vendors, as they rotate each week at the market. I know I’ll also get to visit with the ever-present market coordinator Ivy Hagedorn, as well as Lori Haun, Executive Director of Downtown Joplin Alliance, an organization created to foster the revitalization in the heart of our city. Joplin Empire Market is the result of this organization’s latest effort to do just that – and it’s off to a great start in its debut season.

 

 

Where It’s At

When you see the oversized yellow rocking chair on 4th Street, you’ll know you’ve arrived.

 

joplin empire market chair1

Housed in a 1907 building that was donated to Downtown Joplin Alliance by Empire District Electric Company, this enclosed, year-round market features vendors from a 150-mile radius selling produce, meats, eggs, local products, crafts, and art. There’s a huge parking lot on the east side of the building, so you always know that you’ll find a spot nearby.

 

The market’s open every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Can I just take a second here to say how much I love these hours? I can still sleep in and get my market fix.

 

joplin empire market outsideA market report is posted on Joplin Empire Market’s Facebook page each week listing the vendors that will be attending that Saturday, which I find  helpful for formulating a game plan before I hit the market. To follow the market’s Facebook page, click here. If you want an overview of the market experience, keep on reading.

 

 

Plants and Produce

When I see the variety of plants and produce offered at the market, I often think, “They grew that around here?” I tried growing a garden one year and it yielded just one cucumber and a handful of strawberries, so I have a great respect for those who cultivate gardens which produce bountifully, like Green’s Greenhouse & Garden, Our Little Piece of Heaven, OakWoods Farm, Joplin Greenhouse & Garden Center, and Robertson Family Farm (you can also visit this farm to pick your own blueberries during the season; click here to read more about it).

 

joplin empire oakwoodsjoplin empire joplin greenhouse

If you’re hankering for seasonal items like berries and tomatoes, make sure to arrive at the opening of the market, as they sell out quickly.

 

 

Meat, Eggs, and Baked Goods

If you’re a conscientious carnivore, you can buy eggs, pork, and grass-fed beef at Black Cat Barnyard, “a family farm that focuses on raising pastured animals that lead happy lives.” Fleetwood Farmette also sells eggs as well as baked goods, including cheesy bread and sweet bread.

 

On my first trip to the market, I arrived around 11 a.m. and Marty Yates, the Bearded Baker, was standing behind his empty booth, since all of his artisan bread loaves were already sold out. So the following week, I got to the market earlier and was able to snag one of his Nonie loaves, which we ate with dinner that night. Who am I kidding? After eating half of that dense and hearty loaf myself, that bread was my dinner that night!

 

joplin empire bearded

If you’ve got a sweet tooth, check out the artisan cookies at All Mixed Up Bakery. For people who enjoy sweets but have special dietary needs, stop by Sugar Creek Bakery, which offers sugar-free and gluten-free baked goods.

 

joplin empire all mixed up

This fishie from All Mixed up Bakery is too cute to eat!

 

 

Unique Area Products

Finding local items that I can gift to my out-of-town friends and family is one way that I like to introduce people to life in the Ozarks, and there are several vendors at Joplin Empire Market that help me out in this endeavor. On a recent trip to visit my parents in Chicago, I brought them a bottle of Savory Sauce (great for marinades and salads), and a shaker of salt from SmokeLicked Salts (hardwood-smoked Atlantic sea salt sold in a variety of flavors – I’m obsessed with the Adobo, which is now a staple in my kitchen).

 

joplin empire savory

The ladies behind Savory Sauce – literally and figuratively 😉

joplin empire salt

Other great local food products include honey from Robertson Family Farm (the blueberry people), and no-sugar-added fruit leathers from Fleetwood Farmette. My daughter loves to eat these and I’m feel good about giving them to her because they’re wholesome snacks.

 

joplin empire robertson

Local honey from Robertson Family Farm

joplin empire fleetwood

Fruit leathers from Fleetwood Farmette

Handmade local products make fun gifts, too. If there’s a man in your life with a beard, Artisan Beardworks can help him keep it neatly groomed with their selection of balm, oil, beard wash, and combs. They also sell boxed sets, which makes gift-giving easy.

 

joplin empire bearded product

 

Artisan Creations

There are vendors at Joplin Empire Market that create unique, non-consumable products, too. These artisans and craftspeople bring an added layer to the market’s offerings. Let’s start with Martha Goldman. In addition selling her art at the market, Martha is also the creative force behind the market’s mural, which was inspired by Joplin’s natural beauty: the bluffs near Shoal Creek, the wondrous (and now-closed) Crystal Cave, wild blackberries, coneflowers, purple-tailed skinks.

 

joplin empire mural

There’s also Stone House Merchant, selling jewelry made from crystals, beads, and rocks, like these stunning wire-wrapped stones featuring the tree of life.

 

joplin empire stone house

The Market Artisans is a group of five woman who rotate selling their goods (jewelry, textiles, pottery, etc.) at the market. One member of this group, Kristin Girard, is a jewelry artist whose work I’ve been a fan of for years, and you can read more about her here.

 

joplin empire market artisans

Fairy Gardens at The Market Artisans booth

 

You can bring home a piece of yesteryear from White Buffalo Sign Company, which creates high resolution scans of original vintage Joplin signs, then applies them to 24-gauge metal.

 

joplin empire white buffalo (1)

 

Market Dining

You don’t have to wait until you bring your edible goodies home from Joplin Empire Market before you indulge. The market features a different food truck each week. Past vendors include The Sweet Truck (gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches), Blondies Woodfired Wheelhouse (pizza), Cochinita Mexican Street Food (their Mexican corn is a must-try), and Take a Stand (featuring smoothies and fresh-pressed juices).

 

If you need a little lift to power through your Saturday, grab a cup of joe from the market’s coffee vendor (Bearded Lady Roasters and Cottage Small Coffee Roasters have been at the market).

 

 

Music and Special Events

The market is more than just a place to buy local produce and goods; it’s a place to connect with the community and to cultivate your own creativity. With live music playing in the background, it’s easy to find inspiration while crafting your own piece of art at special events like Markers at the Market.

 

joplin empire music

My daughter was thrilled when WellSpring Acres brought their sweet alpacas to the market for people to meet.

 

joplin empire wellspring alpaca

Not only was it fun to pet the alpacas, but when we went inside the to the farm’s booth, we found it interesting to see all of the products made from the alpacas’ wool.

 

joplin empire wellspring

Wool dryer balls make an environmentally friendly alternative to paper sheets.

 

The lively, dynamic atmosphere at Joplin Empire Market energizes me each time I go. I leave there not only with bags filled with locally produced items, but with a sense of connection to my community, a community that continues to grow and thrive.

 

 

Ways to Pay for Your Goodies

In addition to good, old-fashioned cash, the market accepts other forms of payment:

 

Debit tokens. If plastic is the only thing you’re carrying in your wallet, you can purchase with your credit card to use at any vendor booth at the market. Vendors can give you cash back, too, so you won’t be stuck with unused tokens.

 

joplin empire market tokens

SNAP/EBT. The market now accepts Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which allows those who qualify to have access to fresh, local fruits, vegetables, breads, meats, and dairy products – basically any food at the market that’s not intended for consumption on site.

 

joplin empire market double bucks

Plus, the Fair Food Network’s Double Up Food Bucks program doubles the value of tokens that recipients spend on fruits and vegetables at the market.

 

 

Market info: The market is open year-round on Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and is located at 931 E. 4th Street. Click here to find the weekly market reports on Facebook, and click here to visit the market’s website.

 

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

 

Spiva Membership Show

Admit it.

 

You do it.

 

I do it.

 

At one point every single one of us is guilty of plugging into mass-produced cultural entertainment of – let’s face it – marginal quality in our recreational time.

 

Why?

 

Because it’s easy. It requires very little effort on our part. Just log in to Netflix and zone away.

 

While doing so has its place in the hierarchy of destressing modes, we often forget that there are other ways in which we can unwind while simultaneously enriching our lives.

 

But that takes planning, and travel time, and money, you say. (Geez, you sound like my children!)

 

If your mission is to travel to Kansas City, or Tulsa, or northwest Arkansas to visit the revered cultural institutions there, then, yes, it will take some effort and planning.

 

But I’m here to tell you that there is another way. You can forgo that hassle and refill your cultural well right here in Joplin with very little planning or travel time.

 

And you can do it for free.

 

spiva membership dream

Perchance to Dream by Paula Giltner

 

On a recent Saturday, I announced to my brood that we would be going to the George A. Spiva Center for the Arts that afternoon to view the annual membership show. My declaration was met with belabored groans and steely glares that silently cursed me.

 

Who did I think I was trying to enrich their lives?

 

Afternoon came, and after thirty minutes of gently reminding my family that we would soon be leaving and barely receiving a grunt in response, I began turning off and unplugging various devices. You can guess how well that went over.

 

We finally piled into the minivan, along with a variety of Oscar-caliber whining and complaining. During the ten-minute drive to Spiva, I tuned out the back-seat grumbling and focused on my breathing, silently repeating this mantra: I will expose them to culture. I will expose them to culture. I will expose them to culture.

 

And they’ll like it, by golly. That’s the censored version of my thought, anyway.

 

Once inside the exhibit at Spiva, it only took a few minutes before I noticed a change in my kids. At times, they were actually getting lost in their thoughts while studying the artwork, and at other times they were enjoying the playful side of artistic expression.

 

 

spiva membership geese

My littlest chick posing by Ruth Millers Under the Feather

 

This exhibit was the Spiva Membership Show, which takes place at the end of every year. Admission to the exhibit is free, although donations are always welcome.

 

This annual exhibit showcases the work of around 100 area artists; we have some incredibly talented artists in the Joplin area, I might add.

 

The Membership Show was juried, and there were cash prizes totaling $2,400 awarded in the adult category, and prizes totaling $600 in the youth category.

 

spiva membership sunflowerShy Sunflower by Darla Hare

 

There were ceramics, watercolors, oil paintings, photographs, sculptures, and mixed media pieces.

 

 

spiva membership flightThe Dream of Flight by Jeffrey Jones

 

Not only was I excited to surround myself and my family with high-quality art, I was surprised to discover that I had met at least half of the artists whose works were on exhibit. I don’t say that to give you the impression that I frequent art galleries all the time, dahling. Actually, most of my time is spent running kids to their various activities, so on the rare occasion that I meet a local artist whose talent blows me away, it makes quite an impression on me.

 

It just so happens that there are some big players making their rounds in the arts community here in the Ozarks, and they’ve got my attention.

 

spiva membership wisemanPrincess and the Pea by Natalie Wiseman

 

An added bonus of the Membership Show is that many of the pieces were for sale; the pieces that I liked the most ranged in price from $100 to $3,200.

 

Dear Family: Read this post carefully for gift ideas for Christmas and/or my birthday, and/or just because you love me for exposing you to real-life culture. In addition to the pieces in the exhibit, there’s also some incredible jewelry in Spiva’s gift gallery that caught my eye. Oh, and a gift certificate to a Spiva art class would make a nice present, too – remember that funglass tray I made at a class there?

 

spiva membership doerrBirth of a Black Hole by Steve Doerr

 

When we were finished exploring the exhibit, I asked my family which pieces were their favorites. Here were their responses:

 

spiva membership danteTeenager’s favorite: Dave’s Pain by Kevin Myers. Is she trying to tell me something?

 

spiva membership eclipseMiddle child’s favorite: Eclipse by Josie Mai

 

spiva membership birdYoungest child’s favorite was Refugio: Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, by Brenda Sageng

 

spiva membership dogHusband’s favorite: Mama’s Little Angel by Robyn Cook

 

spiva membership ameliaMy favorite: St. Amelia – Patron Saint of Amassment and Collection by Michele DeSutter

 

As we were leaving Spiva’s parking lot, I asked my family, “Who had a good time?”

 

Every single one of those former complainers immediately answered, “I did!”

 

Ha!

 

Take that, Netflix. You don’t own us. We have the power to break free from our electronic trances and expose ourselves to real-life culture.

 

And we can fill up our cultural well right here in Joplin.

 

spiva membership circusLife is a Circus by Debbie Reed

 

 

Spiva is located at 222 West Third Street in Joplin.

 

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

Guilty by Association Truck Show

Why are people making such a big deal about a truck show?

 

This thought ran through my mind as stood in line at the Walmart Supercenter, listening to the people in front of me talking to the cashier about their plans to attend the Guilty by Association Truck Show (GBATS). Sure, I’d seen and heard advertisements for this event around town, but I hadn’t given it much thought – until I kept crossing paths with people talking about it, and the buzz became so deafening that I knew I had to check it out for myself.

 

It turns out that this truck show is a really, really big deal.

 

guilty-eagle

One of the world’s longest truck convoys is part of the GBATS two-day event. Each year, this convoy (bobtails only) begins at 6 p.m. on Saturday evening at 4 State Trucks, located on Highway 43 just off of I-44 near the Joplin 44 Petro. It then travels north to downtown Joplin, where approximately 400 drivers will park their trucks, turn on their lights, and enjoy an evening of camaraderie with their fellow drivers at a party on Main Street.

 

guilty-lopez-night

Some advice to anyone trying to drive across town on the night of the convoy: get to where you need to go before the convoy begins. Better yet, pack a folding chair and watch the convoy yourself. That’s what we did.

 

guilty-ellsworth-service-center

It’s incredible how quickly the number of trucks participating in the convoy has grown over the years. In 2010, the first year of the event, there were 17 trucks; in 2015, there were more than 370!

 

Why do drivers participate in this convoy? The main reason is because the money raised from it goes to Special Olympics Missouri’s program for sports training program and competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. In recent years, the convoy has raised over $70,000 for this cause.

 

Plus, 40 drivers have the privilege of having a Special Olympian riding along with them in the convoy.

 

guilty-pink-cancer

Participating in the convoy is also a fun way for drivers to proudly show off their working trucks, their homes on the road. And some of these homes are pretty fancy.

 

guilty-arthurs-legacy-day

guilty-military-night2

The convoy we saw arrived in downtown Joplin just as the sun set behind the century-old brick buildings. Drivers turned on their truck lights and Main Street transformed into an enchanted parking lot.

 

guilty-main-street-night

Seeing these trucks reminded me of looking at houses around the holidays; during the day they appeared appropriately festive, but at night, they looked completely different, magical.

 

guilty-ripped-dayDay

guilty-ripped-nightNight

 

The parked trucks provided an impressive backdrop for the street party, which was a family-friendly event. There were food vendors and musical performances from bands like South of Vertical and Tony Justice.

 

guilty-semi-near-mural

 

This was just the downtown portion of the GBATS. There were a variety of activities going on in south Joplin at 4 State Trucks all day Friday and Saturday (prior to the convoy) including an open house, a swap meet, big rig burnouts, a motorcycle stunt rider show, and semi truck and trailer pulls.

 

Keeping with the family-friendly theme, there were also food vendors and children’s activities, plus a fireworks display to end the Friday night festivities.

 

There’s a lot to see and do during the GBATS two-day event. I now understand why I heard so many people talking about it.

 

Iis a big deal.

 

 

For more information on GBATS, click here.

 

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, surreal still life paintings are whimsical and fun, like this one called Sink or Swim.

 

arts-fest-wiseman-sink-or-swim

 

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 9/17/19)

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.

 

First Thursday ArtWalk

There are a couple of monthly events in Joplin whose names are so similar that people – understandably – tend to confuse the two. Most people have heard of Third Thursday; held in downtown Joplin, this event celebrates the culture, commerce, and cuisine of our city, and it does so on a grand scale, offering a festival feeling which caters to people of all ages.

 

The other event, First Thursday ArtWalk, also celebrates the arts and culture of Joplin, but is does so in a more subdued fashion. I’ll sum up the general atmosphere of each event like this: Third Thursday = county fair meets art festival; First Thursday = hipster coffee shop.

 

I hope that’s at least a teensy bit clearer than mud. To get a better idea of what I mean, you can read about my experience at Third Thursday here, then read about my experience at First Thursday ArtWalk below and then compare the two.

 

first thursday signHelpful signs pointing to First Thursday ArtWalk exhibits

 

First Thursday ArtWalk

There were 11 art venues set up the day I went to First Thursday ArtWalk. I found a map of these venues online and printed it out before I left because I like to be prepared (later, I noticed that the maps were also available at the ArtWalk venues themselves). I said goodbye to my husband and kids, hopped in the car, turned on my music (not the unintelligible rap songs that my kids insist on playing), and headed downtown to to enjoy some grown-up time.

 

Alone.

 

I began my First Thursday ArtWalk experience at Spiva Center for the Arts, where several artists had set up exhibits in the lobby, like Brenda Hayes who was selling her fantastical jewelry.

 

first thursday hayes designs 

I also stopped and spoke with Jane McCaulley who was selling her whimsical glass work and offering visitors the chance to create their own glass pendants at her booth for just $5. I once took a class from Jane, and her awesome teaching abilities (and patience) enabled me to create a glass tray that I’m proud of and that I actually use as a serving tray when company comes. You can peek at it here.

 

While talking to Jane and browsing through the exhibits at Spiva, I could hear subtle folk music playing in the background. I rounded a corner and saw the Ozark Bards playing in the corner, their live American and Celtic music adding a richness to the surrounding art on display.

 

first thursday ozark bards

My next stop was the Post Art Library, located inside the Joplin Public Library building. Here, Josh and Genevieve Moore of Cottage Small Coffee Roasters were demonstrating coffee pour-overs featuring their locally roasted coffee and offering samples. Of course I tried some and immediately felt so collegiate sipping boutique coffee at the library.

 

first thursday cottage smallNow that’s a fresh cup of coffee.

 

As I sipped, I walked around to view the art exhibits. An incredibly realistic needle-felted dog portrait by Linda Wenger caught my attention (I wanted to pet it!).

 

first thursday linda wengerPet me! I’m a good doggie.

 

S0 did a cool and creepy metal “Stalking Spider” sculpture by James Jackson.

 

first thursday james jacksonA not-s0-itsy-bitsy spider.

 

This would have freaked out my kids – and my husband, too, to be honest – so it’s a good thing they all stayed home.

 

Most of the remaining ArtWalk venues were located on Main Street, and helpful sidewalk signs guided me to them. I saw geometric woodwork designs from James Sargent,

 

first thursday illusions

and intricate patterns on ceramic from Belle Lynn Designs (she uses doilies on her pottery to make the patterns – brilliant).

 

first thursday belle lynn 2Look what you can make with mud and doilies. 

 

I then made my way to 611 Main Marketplace; this space features the most First Thursday artisans in one place, making it an essential stop during this event.

 

first thursday 611 main

I also stopped at the Urban Art Gallery, which features the work of area artists all the time and not just during First and Third Thursdays. There, I chatted with Kristin Girard from Kristin’s Laboratory (I’m obsessed with her jewelry), and saw the photography of Linda Teeter,

 

first thursday linda teeter

as well as the whimsical painting of Kim Guthrie, whose “Fairy Dog Mother” painting made me chuckle.

 

first thursday kim guthrieWho wouldn’t want a fairy chihuahua?

 

Next to Urban Art Gallery was Focal Point, where art students from nearby Missouri State Southern University displayed their work. There were very serious pieces,

 

first thursday mssu 2

and some that were a bit cheekier, like this print of the green gluttonous ghost from the movie Ghostbusters.

 

first thursday mssuMy kids would definitely have loved this.

 

It was here at Focal Point that I had the pleasure of meeting Cocoa, the mascot of First Thursday.

 

first thursday mascotCocoa and her person, Cindy.

 

Cocoa is a dachshund owned by Cindy and Steve Head. Cocoa is also an artist – a painter, to be exact, and you can follow her work here.

 

Many of the artists that I saw at First Thursday ArtWalk I have also seen at Third Thursday events. This time, though, I had the luxury of taking my time to really examine and enjoy their work without kids vying for my attention.

 

Like a real grown-up.

 

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

The Hip Handmade Market

I’m a pinner.

 

I love scrolling through Pinterest, my eyes feasting on the buffet of mindblowingly creative ideas for practically every area of my life.

 

I pin inspirational ideas onto my boards hoping that someday I’ll handcraft my daughter’s birthday party invitations, I’ll make that beaded necklace, and I’ll refinish that wooden dresser that was damaged in the tornado.

 

But I never do.

 

At this point in my life, I lack the time, patience, and skills for these super hip DIY projects

 

Alas, I never move beyond pinning.

 

Except for the dresser – I did do that project and, by golly, it actually turned out well.

 

Yet I yearn to surround myself with one-of-a-kind, handmade items; I want a DIY lifestyle without doing it myself.

 

A bit problematic, right?

 

Luckily, there’s an event in Joplin that provides a solution to my Pinterest conundrum: the Hip Handmade Market (or HHM, as the chic people say).

 

hhm info

With booth after booth filled with contemporary arts and crafts, walking through the HHM is like seeing Pinterest boards come to life.

 

Therefore, in my mind, when I buy something unique from one of the craftspeople at the HHM, it’s like I’ve virtually completed a project on Pinterest.

 

I know, I know – I’m stretching it. But the HHM really is the next best thing to “doing it yourself.”

 What is the HHM?

The HHM is the brainchild of Emma Ball. A few years ago, this creative and vivacious ball of energy (pun intended) wanted to introduce a new kind of arts and crafts show to Joplin.

 

And we are ever so grateful that she did.

 

hhm e and cThe amazing Miss Emma 

 

Held twice each year, the HHM’s popularity has skyrocketed since it debuted in spring 2014. But a successful market doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a huge number of vendors. Emma’s goal is to provide an ample number of vendors without compromising the quality of the products, so competition to participate in the HHM is pretty fierce.

 

Vendor applications are carefully reviewed by a selection committee. While some vendors travel from other states, the committee’s goal is to choose as many local artisans as possible.

 

Thanks for supporting our local talent, Emma!

 

At the spring 2015 HHM, there were 52 booths (including one that I’ve been obsessed with since the first HHM: Kristin’s Laboratory).

 

Here’s a glimpse of some of the items I saw (including vendor names and where they’re from).

 

hhm charlie 7 bagsFun fabric handbags (Charlie 7 – Joplin)

 

hhm old books lightLanterns made from recycled book pages (Old Books, New Stories – Joplin)

 

hhm sweet peaArtwork made from dried flowers (Sweet Pea Paintings – Joplin)

 

hhm hookedNail and string art (Hooked – Webb City)

 

hhm little landscapesNaturescapes (Little Landscapes – Carthage/Webb City)

 

hhm odd duckYummy toast? Nope! Handmade soap (Odd Duck Soaps – Webb City)

 

hhm lady threadShark pillow (The Lady in Thread – Ozark, MO)

 

hhm needle feltAdorable felt collectibles (Needle & Felt – Kasson, MN, formerly of Joplin)

It was difficult trying to limit my shopping at the HHM because I wanted to buy most everything. Here are some goodies that did make it home with me:

 

hhm joy elizabethLooks like a wooden spoon, but it’s actually ceramic. (Joy Elizabeth Ceramics – Rogers, AR)

 

hhm elegant ammoRepurposed ammunition is the centerpiece of this bracelet (Elegant Ammo – Carthage)

These are just a few of the uncommon finds at the HHM. Browse the complete list of super hip vendors right here.

 

So how did Emma manage to attract so much talent to Joplin? Because she’s a natural magnet for creativity. Check out these decorations that she made for the HHM – by hand, I might add.

 

hhm cascadeEmma’s color cascade

 

hhm backdropMy daughter hams it up in front of Emma’s whimsical backdrop.

Art Feeds Joplin, the HHM’s partner, highlighted Emma’s good-naturedness with a playful craft at the HHM: the Flat Emma. Kids of all ages were invited to decorate a likeness of the lady in charge.

 

hhm flat emma

 

hhm flat emma doneHere’s a decorated Flat Emma.

Are you itching to shop at the HHM? Then click on this link to get info on upcoming markets.

 

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