'Summer Columbia' offers array of festivals, concerts

Wednesday, May 27, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

A woman who had just moved to the area was standing in front of me in line at Starbucks recently. She asked if there was anything to do in town.

“I’ll bet it’s pretty dead here since all the college kids are gone," she said.

I told her absolutely not. Summer is the best time to be in Columbia.

The woman isn’t the first I’ve heard to put down summer Columbia. Friends would look at me in shock when I would tell them I was staying in town for summer break. “You are going to be so bored! There’s nothing to do, and nobody will be here. I can’t believe you are going to tough it out,” they said incredulously.

But I love summer Columbia the best. Better than fall Columbia or spring Columbia combined. Summer Columbia is like an old friend you just get to see once a year because she lives far away, but when you do get to see her you don't run out of things to talk about.

My friend, Pete, and I were discussing whether we considered ourselves "townies" now that we had graduated and were still in Columbia during the summer. We were both more involved in the improvement of the city, and we both decided we kept up with town gossip more than we did previously.

“Now I’m more interested in what’s going on in Columbia than I was before,” Pete said. “It feels different living here and not going to school."

But I believe until you’ve lived in Columbia for a summer and looked forward to the students leaving so the real Columbia can come out to play, you can’t call yourself a "townie."

Like a kid on Christmas break, I’m counting down the days until Art in the Park. My mother and I have not always seen eye to eye on everything, but she and I share a special love for the event. I have it marked on my calendar months in advance, and she is taking off work and coming up to visit Art in the Park, not me.

Every year, for the past few years, we’ve gone together and June 6 and 7 will mark the 51st anniversary of the event, put on by the Columbia Art League.

Artists and craftspeople from Missouri and Arkansas join together for the event. This year, there will be artists from Hannibal, Springfield and Gilbert, Ark., just to name a few.

There’s something for everyone: jazz and ragtime music on stage, storytellers and break dancing, even a children’s area where the little ones can learn how to create origami and weave bookmarks or get their faces painted.

Coming from a small town outside of Branson, I never really got to see much community interaction. It always makes me feel part of a bigger picture when I see everyone coming out to the events and taking pride in their city.

But Art in the Park isn’t the only exciting reason to stick around Columbia. Starting May 30, the Rock the Riverboat Summer Music Series will be held at the Les Bourgeois Winery in Rocheport. The series will be every Saturday through September 26.

Friday, June 12, as well as select Fridays through August 14 will be US Cellular Movies in the Park. The event is held at Flat Branch Park and costs $1 for those aged 13 and up. Great family movies such as "Wall-E," "Coraline" and "Madagascar II" will be shown. You can call the movie hot line to get more information at 819-0620.

On June 14 and continuing until July 26 is the Shelter Gardens Summer Concert Series. June 20-27 is Inside Columbia magazine’s Wine and Food Festival. On July 24, there’s Artrageous Friday , and September promises the 3rd annual Roots ‘N Blues ‘N BBQ Festival.

And, music buffs, don’t forget the 9th Street Summerfest where a portion of 9th street (between Broadway and Walnut) is blocked off and musicians are brought in throughout the summer on Wednesday evenings. Artists like Ben Folds, Roomful of Blues and The Wailers are stopping by.

Columbia is by no means dead or boring in the summer. Where anyone got that idea is beyond me. It seems outsiders aren’t giving us enough credit, or else Columbians are trying to keep their summers a well-kept secret.

With the addition of free wi-fi to select parks, some great entertainment coming to town and the hope of plenty of sunny days ahead of us, there’s no reason why this summer’s events won’t draw out more of a crowd than previous years.

I encourage you to come out to some of this year's events and help dispel the rumor that Columbia is just a college town that ceases to exist when the students go home for the summer.

Tracy Barnes graduated from MU in 2008 with degrees in journalism and English. She is a former copy editor and multimedia editor for the Missourian. She can be contacted at


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