The Show-Me State Shows You Culture

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Festival , Festivals , family activities , Family Fun
Celebrate the Arts and the History of Missouri
Author: Stephen Foutes
There’s no doubt Missouri’s festivals are fun. Sometimes, however, they sneak a little history in on you. From celebrations of the arts to glimpses of our historic past to tributes to our regional lifestyles, Missouri celebrates culture like no place else.

Thanks to Missouri’s fabulous collection of performers and performances and live-show venues, many people know the Show-Me State really is a show-stopper. Missouri’s musical heritage is the focus of the Old Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival, set for June 20-21, 2014, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. both days in downtown West Plains. This long-running celebration of the Ozarks Highlands culture features local performers and two full days of live “Old Time Music.” The event includes a full slate of activities, from cooking, blacksmith and weaving demonstrations to food vendors, jam sessions, dancers and workshops. You might even run across a mule-jumping show.

Another celebration that focuses on regional appreciation begins June 7, 2014, at Silver Dollar City in Branson. That’s when the first ever Star-Spangled Summer festival opens; it runs through July 20. This festival is part of Silver Dollar City’s “Celebrate America” activities. Events include special displays featuring Olympic hopefuls who put on a high-flying exhibition as part of the Flying Ace All-Stars performance group. Renowned magician Brad Ross is a featured performer during the month-long celebration.

As part of “Celebrate America,” Silver Dollar City is paying tribute to America’s Bicentennial celebration in 1976 by offering free 2014 season passes to anyone born in 1976 or married in 1976 (must still be married to the original spouse; proof of date required). Click here for full details.

To explore a different kind of culture – one that’s decidedly more English – visit St. Louis May 15-June 15, 2014, to see one of the acclaimed Shakespeare Festival St. Louis productions at Shakespeare Glen in Forest Park. This year’s productions are Henry IV and Henry V (staged on alternate nights, except Tuesdays), beginning May 25, 2014. Henry IV will preview May 15-17 and Henry V will preview May 19, 22-23. No tickets are required for the event; when you arrive at Shakespeare Glen, find your own seat or rent a chair. Bring your own picnic meal or dine at the on-site restaurant.

While there’s no doubt old Will knew how to use a quill, Missouri has its own famous writer – and we’re pretty proud of him. In fact, one of Mark Twain’s literary creations is so revered in Hannibal – Twain’s hometown – there’s a celebration named in his honor.

At the National Tom Sawyer Days celebration, you find a variety of activities designed to appeal to guests of all ages. From July 3 thru July 5, 2014, Hannibal is home to craft fairs, parades, nightly fireworks over the Mississippi River, the annual Tom and Becky contest, frog jumping, fence painting, traditional festival food, drink and vendors. A wildly popular mud volleyball tournament is part of the festivities; you better take a change of clothes.

2014 marks the 50th anniversary of Bushwhacker Days in Nevada. The festival (June 11-14, 2014) refers to a nickname given Nevada during the American Civil War, when federal troops dubbed Nevada the “Bushwhacker (guerilla fighters) Capital.” The celebration of Bushwhacker Days is decidedly friendlier than the history from which it’s derived. Guests find excitement from a street carnival and car and truck shows to gospel music and a full lineup of activities. Don’t miss Saturday night’s concert, which features Grammy winner Crystal Gayle taking the stage at 8:30 p.m.

Other celebrations with cultural and historic ties include:
  • Festa Italiana, May 30-June 1, 2014, at the Zona Rosa Shopping District in Kansas City. This celebration focuses on Italian traditions and Italian-American culture, offering lots of activities for kids, plus Italian food, live music and vendors. Join the fun May 30, 5 p.m.-10 p.m.; May 31, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; and June 1, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
  • Juneteenth, honoring Emancipation Day (commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S.) is celebrated from June 13-15, 2014, in St. Joseph. The festival includes a parade, vendors, pony rides, live music and a talent show. Also this weekend in St. Joseph, attend the Coleman Hawkins Jazz Festival, featuring jazz ensembles from across the Midwest. Performances are in Coleman Hawkins Park: Friday, 5 p.m.-10 p.m. and Saturday, noon-10 p.m.
  • French Heritage Festival, June 14, 2014, in Ste. Genevieve. Enjoy a day celebrating 300 years of French culture and Ste. Genevieve. The oldest European village west of the Mississippi contains the greatest concentration of French Colonial architecture in North America. Music, a dance, French cuisine, reenactments, a parade and home tours are part of the fun. Activities take place noon to midnight.
  • Fiesta Kansas City, June 20-22, 2014, in Kansas City. This event, presented by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City, is in its 14th year. The party features a variety of food, beverages and live entertainment on two stages in Crown Center Pavilion. Friday’s activities are 5:30 p.m.-11 p.m.; Saturday’s are noon-11 p.m. and Sunday’s are noon-10 p.m.
To learn more about festivals in Missouri, explore VisitMO.com; you can search the keyword 'festivals,' and click this link to see what’s happening May 21-Aug. 31, 2014.