Joplin Holiday Experience

(The following is my family’s holiday itinerary from last year. While some of the same events will be held again this year, there are new events in Joplin that I’m itching to experience, and I list those at the end of this post. My hope is that, by reading this, you will be inspired to participate in the holiday festivities around town and to make special memories with your own families.)

 

Fahoo Fores. Dahoo Dores.

Welcome, Christmas. Come this way.

Fahoo Fores. Dahoo Dores.

Welcome, Christmas, Christmas day!

 

The chorus of the imaginary Whoville townsfolk resounded in my mind as my family and I joined our fellow Joplin citizens gathered in downtown’s Spiva Park.

 

holiday ex whoville

On this particular night, the park’s center fountain was silent, its pool drained for the season; in its place stood a towering Christmas tree, made from strings of Christmas lights which were not yet illuminated.

 

This is why we had come – to share the experience of welcoming Christmas with our neighbors and friends.

 

And with this snowy fellow.

 

holiday ex snowman

This was the annual Spiva Park Tree Lighting, which is held every year at the end of November.

 

“Look! Cotton candy!” said my daughter, as a vendor balanced fluffy pink and blue clouds of the sweet confection while he navigated through the crowd. “Can I get some?” she asked.

 

“Sure!” I said, caught up in the spirit of the Whos. Why not buy her cotton candy to accompany the hot chocolate and cookies which were being handed out at the event? There’s no such thing as too many sweets in Whoville!

 

Finally, the time came for the lighting of the tree. We Whos stood around in anticipation of the lights that would serve as a beacon, welcoming the holiday season to our town.

 

With the click of a button, the park was bathed in brilliance as the lights of the tree danced along to Christmas music. The magic of the holidays entered the park, swirling through the crowd.

 

holiday ex spiva tree

There have been few times during the Christmas season that I, as an adult, have felt as full of wonder and bliss as I did when I was a kid. This was one of those times. I know it sounds corny. Believe me, I was completely surprised by my emotional response, but there it was.

 

My heart grew three sizes that night, and I understood how the Grinch felt as he witnessed the joy of the townsfolk in Whoville.

 

I made a mental note to bring my parents to Spiva Park the following week when they would be visiting from Chicago. I had a jam-packed schedule for them, full of shopping, eating, and attending Christmas events. I wanted to show them the full Joplin Holiday Experience.

 

 

Thursday

My parents arrived in town late Thursday afternoon. We took them for an early dinner to Mythos, a Mediterranean restaurant that was designed for celebration – and being with my parents during the holiday season was certainly a reason to celebrate!

 

Mythos serves traditional Greek dishes like Moussaka, as well as excellent beef dishes like the Blackberry Filet. We ordered the Kasseri Saganaki, a Greek cheese, and watched in amazement as our server pan seared it tableside, finishing it off with a touch of brandy which caused it to flame in a dramatic presentation. 

 

holiday ex mythos

Warmed up by the delicious food, we were ready to go to our first holiday event: Journey to Bethlehem. Located about ten minutes south of Joplin at Racine Christian Church, Journey to Bethlehem is a free annual production that offers a Christmas stage show indoors, as well as an outdoor walk-through living nativity. A cast of over 200 people, as well as live animals, makes this a one-of-a-kind experience.

 

As we walked along the path outdoors, angels appeared to us to deliver the news that the Messiah would soon be born. I’ll never forget how awed my daughter was by this wondrous scene.

 

Driving back home from Journey to Bethlehem, my girls shared their favorite moments from the evening, and talked about how they couldn’t wait to go again next year. It looks like we have a Christmas tradition in the making!

 

 

Friday

Everyone awoke hungry, possibly due to having dreams of sugarplums dancing in our heads all night. After getting the kids off to school, I took my parents to The Bruncheonette, a farm-to-table restaurant housed in a tiny brick building in downtown Joplin.

 

holiday ex brunch

The Garden Bennie

 

Breakfast, brunch, and lunch are served here, and the daily specials are as much fun to read as they are to eat, like the Shiver Me Tenders, an English muffin topped with beef tenderloin, sauteed onions, Gruyere cheese, poached eggs, and mustard daze.

 

Our next stop took us just a few blocks away to the George A. Spiva Center for the Arts. Here we viewed the latest exhibits in the three galleries, then browsed through the center’s gift shop, where we found items crafted by local artisans, like this necklace (which my mom bought for my sister).

 

holiday ex spiva necklace

My mom checked off many people from her gift-buying list over the next few hours as we focused our shopping in downtown Joplin. “You have such unique stores here,” she said to me. “They sell things that you can’t find in Chicago.”

 

I was glad to see that my mom recognized what I had known for a while now: Joplin has distinctive local shops that make holiday gift-buying a pleasurable experience rather than just another thing that you have to do over the holidays.

 

holiday ex downtown shopping

Blue Moon Boutique

 

We finished shopping just in time to pick up the kids from school, then we brought the entire family back downtown for an early dinner at Red Onion Cafe, a casual, urban restaurant that has made its home in Joplin since 1995.

 

We ordered the popular Smoked Chicken Dip as an appetizer, and the dishes that my family chose for dinner ranged from the Chicken Walnut Salad (served with Red Onion Cafe’s house sweet vinaigrette), to the Love Me Tender beef sandwich, and to the Penne from Heaven, bathed in a creamy sauce.

 

Since we were pressed for time, we passed up the Red Onion Cafe’s homemade desserts, eliciting groans from my kids who love the sweets here. But we had tickets for an evening performance at Ozark Christian College, just north of downtown, and we didn’t want to be late.

 

Every year, OCC presents a holiday production, and this year OCC partnered with Stained Glass Theatre and College Heights Christian Church to present the musical version of the holiday classic “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

 

holiday ex occ wonderful life

We settled into our balcony seats inside the packed auditorium, feeling a bit sleepy from our ample dinner. But when the orchestra began playing, we sat up straight, captivated by the sound of live music so grand that it seemed to consume every inch of space in that cavernous room.

 

Being next to those who mean the most to me while watching a play which delivered the message of gratitude made me thankful for my very own wonderful life.

 

Saturday

My girls were not thrilled to wake up early on a Saturday, but the idea of biscuits and gravy, generously stuffed omelets, and fluffy pancakes (Minnie Mouse ones for the youngest) served as a reward for their lost shut-eye.

 

I’m talking about the homestyle breakfasts at Granny Schaffer’s. We all enjoyed our hearty breakfasts, and my mom raved about the coffee, which is micro-roasted every day in small batches to bring out its aroma and flavor.

 

We stopped at Northpark Mall next. My youngest was giddy with excitement because she got the chance to tell the big guy in red what was on her Christmas list this year. After snapping a picture of her on Santa’s lap, my dad walked the kids to the Tilt Studio, an entertainment mecca located inside the mall, while my mom and I did some serious Christmas shopping for the kids.

 

holiday ex tilt

Later, we met at the mall’s food court for a bite to eat before hitting Kohl’s and Target (great for stocking stuffers!), located just across from Northpark Mall in the North Park Crossing Shopping Center.

 

By the time we had finished shopping, the sun had dipped beyond the horizon, and everyone’s energy was waning, so I thought some fresh air would revive us. I wanted to share Spiva Park’s Whoville experience with my parents, and we were lucky to catch the beginning of the light show, which begins on the half hour. I felt just as joyful watching the lights then as I did at the tree lighting the week before.

 

Magic never gets old.

 

We walked a few blocks down Main Street to check out the decorations in the store windows, which can get pretty elaborate since the business here compete for the title of best display. My dad, a major history buff, chose the turn-of-the-century display at the Newman Building as his favorite.

 

holiday ex window 2

My girls liked the snowman display the best.

 

holiday ex window 1

Our walk had led us to our dinner destination that night: Club 609. My parents, husband, and I ordered Club 609’s signature Key Lime Martinis while we looked through the extensive menu. My favorites here include the Thai Chicken Salad, Chicken Bijan, and any of their burgers.

 

By the end of dinner, you could have stuck a fork in us – we were done. It had been a long, busy day, but it was a good busy. We created lasting memories with my parents while they were in town visiting, and we had the chance to introduce them to the Joplin Holiday Experience

 

holiday ex newman santa

 

For 2017, here’s a possible weekend itinerary for a Joplin Holiday Experience:

 
Thursday, December 7

The Calmus Vocal Ensemble from Leipzig, Germany, will be performing at Central Christian Center (410 S. Virginia Ave.). No tickets are required for this performance, although donations are accepted. This event is presented by Pro Musica (you can read more about this organization and my experience at one of its previous events here).

 

I’d suggest arriving early, as I’m sure that the 1000 seats in the theater will fill up quickly, especially with the MSSU Chamber Singers performing at 6:30 p.m.

 

Friday, December 8

Time for the grown-ups! Historic Murphysburg Preservation, Inc. is hosting a one-of-a-kind event:  a bourbon tasting. This event will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the historic Scottish Rite Cathedral (505 S. Byers), and guests will also be able to tour this beautiful building. Tickets are $50 per person and include food pairings. If you’re not a fan of bourbon but still want to attend, you can purchase a non-tasting ticket for $25.

 

Historic Murphysburg Preservation, Inc. holds events which connect the community to Joplin’s rich history. If you’d like to read about what it’s like to attend one of these events, click here.

 

Saturday, December 9

Thanks, once again, to Historic Murphysburg Preservation, Inc. we can peek inside seven homes in the historic Murphysburg District in during the Holiday Homes Tour. Tickets are $20 in advance (you can purchase them here) or $25 on the day of the event at First United Methodist Church (501 W. 4th St.).

 

If you’re not too worn out from home touring, you can catch the 7 p.m. performance of Stained Glass Theatre’s A Laura Ingalls Wilder Christmas (2101 Annie Baxter). I read every single Laura Ingalls Wilder book when I was a little girl, and sharing my beloved heroine with my own girls would be a memorable experience, especially at Stained Glass Theatre, which is such a gem in our community. If you’re too tired to see the Saturday night performance, you can see the Sunday matinee at 2:30 p.m.

 

Sunday, December 10

The MSSU Choral Society will perform its annual Christmas Concert 3 p.m. at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (2423 W. 26th St.). The concert will open with George Handel’s Praise the Lord, and will be followed by the lighthearted The Nutcracker Jingles. The major work performed will be Invitation to a Miracle, which includes familiar carols and traditional readings. This is a free event, and donations are accepted. For more information, contact Wally Bloss at 417-208-9654 0r wbloss@gmail.com.

Now that’s a packed weekend! To learn about events happening in Joplin during the rest of the month, click here.

 

Happy holidays!

 

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.

Art Studios in Joplin

Have you ever wanted to make your own jewelry? A glass ornament? Ceramic dinnerware?

 

Or maybe you’d like to paint your very own picture to hang in your home?

 

You can learn how to do all those things right here in town because the art studios in Joplin offer classes which cover a wide variety of skills, materials, and techniques.

 

And, no, you don’t have to be a Picasso to enjoy taking one of these classes. The mission of these studios is to make art accessible to the general public, so they offer classes for every skill level.

 

rsvp people painting

In addition to offering art classes, many of these studios have galleries displaying the work of talented artists in the community – and it’s for sale. So if you’re looking for an original piece, either for yourself or to give as a gift, definitely visit these galleries.

 

Firehouse Pottery: Turn a piece of unpainted pottery into your very own work of art at this studio. Unpainted items include tiles, mugs, plates, vases, wine glasses, holiday decor, animal figurines for kids (and adults!) to paint, and much more.

 

FIrehouse shelves

Walk in and paint any time, or sign up for a special session like “Date Night” or “Story Time Pottery” (for the little ones). 122 South Main Street

 

George A. Spiva Center for the Arts: This “fine art hub of the Four States” offers classes in painting, anime, fused glass, photography, jewelry, and more.

For children, Spiva offers ongoing weekly classes which introduce them to a variety of media (“Preschooler and Pal Art Class” and “Creation Station”).

 

art spiva

Browse through Spiva’s gift shop to see original work from local and regional artists. Of course, no visit is complete without walking through the galleries to see the latest exhibits featuring artists from all over the world. 222 West Third Street.

 

Local Color Art Gallery & Studio: This gathering place for local artists offers Saturday painting classes for beginning and intermediate students, ages 8 and up (all materials are included), plus Wednesday classes for more experienced painters (who bring their own materials).

 

The studio also offers a monthly “Vino and Van Gogh” class, where instructors lead you through the process of painting a work by one of the masters in the art world, such as Van Gogh or Monet, while you enjoy a glass of wine.

 

art local color

Walk through the gallery to see the abundant talent of our area’s artists, including paintings, art glass, jewelry, woodwork, ceramics, hand-dyed silk scarves and more. 1027 South Main Street

 

Phoenix Fired Art: This studio offers beginning clay classes for both adults and children. During Saturday drop-in classes, people of all skill levels can come in and work at their own levels.

 

Artists who are skilled in ceramics can purchase an Open Studio Membership, which allows them access to the equipment in the studio so they can work on their projects.

 

art phoenix

Phoenix Fired Art also sells pieces made by local and regional artists. You’ll find ceramics, jewelry, textiles, art glass, and more. 1603 South Main Street

 

RSVPaint: Relax, sip, visit, and paint with your friends at this art studio. Enjoy a glass of wine (or beverage of your choice) while RSVP’s instructors lead you through the painting process, step by step. Capture the image of your pet on canvas at the monthly Paint-Your-Pet session, where your favorite pet photo…

 

rsvp micky photo

…becomes a piece of art.

 

rsvp micky

Painters of all ages are welcome during designated times, such as “Saturday Family Paint” and “Walk-In Wednesdays.” 420 South Main Street

 

Art in Joplin is thriving right now, thanks in large part to one organization whose mission it is to create awareness of cultural arts in the community: Connect2Culture.

 

Each week, Connect2Culture sends out a newsletter containing a comprehensive list of upcoming classes and events in the Joplin arts community; I highly recommend subscribing to it!

 

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

Route 66

Thousands of tourists travel historic Route 66 through Joplin each year.

 

Are you one of them?

 

I wasn’t.

 

Sure, over the years I’d utilized Route 66 at some point nearly every single day as I’d take my kids to activities and run errands, occasionally noticing the historic road’s signage when stopped at a red light (which, by the way, seemed to be posted on multiple roads and therefore perplexed me – more about that in a minute).

 

But I’d never really explored Joplin’s portion of the Mother Road through the unadulterated eyes of a tourist, who travels the highway in order to experience an important part of America’s history.

 

Me? I’d been using Route 66 as an efficient way to get across town to Target. I finally realized that it was time to rectify that, so I decided to travel Route 66 through Joplin like a tourist.

 

route-66-general-sign

Three Alignments

 

Remember how I mentioned that I saw Route 66 signage on multiple streets and how that confused me? I did some research and learned that Route 66 was realigned twice after the original construction of the road (click here for more about the history of Route 66 in Joplin).

 

Here’s a brief summary of the three alignments, coming from Webb City’s Broadway Street and heading west toward Joplin (you can see a map of this by clicking here):

 

1926: Broadway (Webb City) to Madison/North Range Line to Zora to Florida to Utica to Euclid to St. Louis to Broadway (Joplin) to Main to 7th. This is the portion of the Route that I only recently discovered, and it winds through the Royal Heights neighborhood to Broadway Street (which used to be Main Street when Joplin was known as Joplin City a loooooong time ago).

 

1937: Broadway (Webb City) to 171 to North Main Street to 7th.

 

1958: Broadway (Webb City) to Madison/North Range Line to 7th.

 

Attractions Along – and Slightly Off – the Route

 

There are some attractions located a block or two off the Route that I think are important to point out.

 

Joe Becker Stadium (1301 East 3rd Street)

Built in 1913, Joe Becker Stadium is two blocks south of Broadway (Route 66), and was once home to baseball great Mickey Mantle when he played for the Joplin Miners in 1950.

 

George A. Spiva Center for the Arts (222 W. Third Street)

With national and regional exhibits, art classes and workshops, and a gift shop with one-of-a-kind items, this center is abuzz with creativity and talent.

 Spiva-princess

And there’s a bonus: admission is free! Go see for yourself why Spiva Center for the Arts is the visual arts hub of the Four States.

 

Joplin City Hall (Newman Building, 602 South Main Street)

I think this is one of the prettiest buildings in Joplin, and I wonder what it must have been like to shop here over a century ago when it was a high-rise department store. Today, the building houses Joplin’s municipal offices, as well as its Convention and Visitors Bureau, which serves as a great resource for tourists (and residents) who are looking for things to do in the city and surrounding area.

 murals-gude

As a Mother Road traveler, be sure to stop in the lobby of the Newman Building to look at the incredible painting “Route 66, Joplin, Missouri” by world-renowned artist Thomas Hart Benton, which offers a snapshot of life in Joplin during the height of the Mother Road era.

 

Route 66 Mural Park (619 South Main Street)

Located across the street from City Hall, this park pays tribute to Joplin’s contribution to the Route 66 culture. With two murals plus an oversized 45 record imprint of “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66,” this park provides an ideal backdrop for photos of Route 66 sojourners.

 

route-66-joplin-mural-park

Other murals painted on buildings downtown capture bits and pieces of the history and character of our city. If you’re up for it, take a walking tour to get to know Joplin through its public art.

 

 

Restaurants on the Route

 

Soul food, gyros, pasta, veggie dogs, and doughnut burgers – did you know that you can try all of these on the Route in downtown Joplin?

 

You can! Maybe not all of them on one day, though…

 

If you have a hankering for some made-from-scratch food that comforts your soul, visit MEs Place (1203 Broadway), owned by former Joplin Mayor Melodee Kean.

 

MEs-sides

If you’re craving Greek food, stop at M & M Bistro (407 South Main Street), which serves fresh, flavorful Mediterranean delights, like gyros and hummus.

 

For some great local pizza (the Buffalo Chicken is my favorite), try JBs Downtown. (112 South Main Street).

 

If wings are your thing, definitely try some of Missouri’s best at Hackett Hot Wings (520 South Main Street), where you can choose from 13 signature flavors.

 

karma-donut

Both vegetarians and carnivores alike achieve sweet bliss after eating at Instant Karma (527 South Main). Here, you can order inventive dishes like the Bio Diesel (a veggie dog served with homemade bleu cheese coleslaw) or the Heavenly Donut (a hamburger served with a glazed doughnut as the bun). Round out your meal with one of the many craft beers on the menu.

 

Need some something sweet after your meal? Try a scoop of Bear Claw or Red Velvet Cake ice cream from Sweet Caroline’s(1027 South Main). Located three blocks off the Route in the historic Gryphon Building, this old-fashioned ice cream shop is worth the slight detour.

 

 

Last Stop Before Kansas!

Schifferdecker Park (7th and Schifferdecker)

Named after Joplin businessman and philanthropist Charles Schifferdecker, this park is the last stop on historic Route 66 before the Kansas state line. In addition to being a wonderful place to have a picnic or to let the kids run around on the playground, there are several other activities that you can do here that you just might not know about.

 

Schiff-golf-water

For instance, you can float on a lazy river at the Joplin Aquatic Center, play 18 holes of golf at Schifferdecker Golf Course, catch a performance at Joplin Little Theatre (the longest continuously running community theatre west of the Mississippi), and see a necklace found in Bonnie and Clyde’s Joplin hideout at the Joplin Museum Complex (where you’ll also learn that Schifferdecker Park was once called Electric Park and had a huge roller coaster in it!).

 JLT-interior

So, my Joplin friends, how many of these places have you been to? If you’ve visited them all, then I applaud you.

 

If not, here’s your challenge: For one day, be a tourist.

 

Start at North Range Line Road and trace historic Route 66 solely for the purpose of pleasure and discovery, rather than as a means of getting from point A to point B.

 

You might even play “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66” to get you in an adventurous mood.

 

If you ever plan to motor west,

Travel my way, take the highway that is best.

Get your kicks on Route 66.

 

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