An Artist's Touch

The Columbia Festival of the Arts will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday on Courthouse Square and the surrounding streets. This year’s festival will host 40 live performances on three free stages. Audiences can enjoy jazz, modern dance, Celtic music, African drumming, juggling or fire-eating performances. The event — which is put on annually by the Office of Cultural Affairs — will also include free art activities for kids, food vendors and displays by local art organizations.

For a map of the festival grounds and a complete list of stage schedules for the weekend, go to

Craft retailer takes off

Hobby Lobby arrived in Columbia earlier this month, riding a wave of interest in crafts and hobbies that has never been higher. The company’s 16th store in Missouri opened Sept. 4 at Broadway and Ash Street and held its grand-opening sale through Saturday.

The craft and hobby industry has grown by 26 percent in recent years. According to the most recent Craft and Hobby Association data, it is a $29 billion industry in the United States, up from $23 billion in 2000. More than 60 percent of American households participated in craft activities in 2002. The association estimates that frequent crafters can spend as much as $1,500 on supplies in a year.

Report: Fewer get HMO from employers

JEFFERSON CITY — Missourians’ enrollment in employer-sponsored HMOs dropped more than 20 percent last year, continuing a five-year downward trend, according to a report released Thursday by the state Insurance Department.

At the same time, however, the percentage of Missourians who lacked insurance fell slightly. Eleven percent of Missourians were uninsured in 2003, compared to 15.6 percent nationally, and 11.6 percent in Missouri during 2002.

Group visits Boone County to look at election process

Boone County Clerk Wendy Noren met with international election officials Thursday to discuss U.S. election procedures.

The officials were part of Fair Election, an international election observation program made up of democratic countries around the world. Delegates travel to different states and convene to draft a report detailing what they learned from their visits. An eight-member delegation will return to the United States in November to view the election.

Push polls targeting local candidates raise concern

Becky Vanlandingham doesn’t need to answer a poll to prove she’s a Democrat.

“All these years I’ve been active in the Democratic Party,” said Vanlandingham, “all these years in politics since I was a child.”

Hulshof’s role in DeLay case questioned

While Ninth District U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof and fellow members of the House Ethics Committee have yet to take action on a June 15 complaint filed against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Texas grand jury returned 32 indictments against three consultants to a political action committee that supports DeLay.

The consultants, who worked for Texans for a Republican Majority, were charged along with eight corporations with making illegal political contributions. DeLay, however, was not indicted. Meanwhile, the ethics committee has allowed two deadlines for action on the complaint to pass.

Walks to help fight diseases

This weekend, hundreds of mid-Missourians will walk in the direction of research and awareness.

Three fund-raising walks are to benefit efforts to fight diabetes, cancer and heart disease. The first falls on Friday, when up to 500 participants are expected at Light the Night, a one-mile walk through the MU campus sponsored by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Natural Selections

Students file quickly into the cafeteria at Southern Boone County Middle School in Ashland on Monday. Some sit down immediately with packed bag lunches, but most wait in line to buy lunch.

The line moves swiftly. Students sit down, some with nachos. Others eat chicken quesadillas or munch a chef salad served with fruit and homemade cookies.

City, MU brainstorm new museum

City and MU officials are considering a partnership to build an archaeology museum downtown.

The museum may cost more to build than other buildings because it will require elaborate security, ventilation, heating and cooling systems, said Bill Bondeson, an MU music professor and assistant to the chancellor.

Guard cables to help prevent I-70 crossovers

With 22 traffic deaths for every 100,000 people, Missouri is in a four-way tie for the ninth-highest traffic death rate in the country, according to a recent report released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Interstate 70 has a reputation for being particularly dangerous, especially because of the state’s high rate of crossover accidents, which occur when a vehicle crosses the median into opposing traffic.

As of July 15, the most recent statistics available, there have been 50 crossover accidents on I-70 across Boone and Callaway Counties, three of which have ended in fatalities. In 2003, there were a total of 76 crossover accidents in the two counties, resulting in eight deaths. The Missouri Highways and Transportation Department is hoping to greatly reduce those numbers with its guard cable installation project, which will eventually extend median guard cable barriers across the state.

Sign of the times

The intersection of Nifong Boulevard and Providence Road is now an eyesore for Boone County Republicans. Recently, a 4-by-8 Bush and Cheney sign next to the party’s local headquarters was spray-painted with orange paint in the shape of a banned sign.

Volunteer Susan DiPietre said she noticed the sign Tuesday morning.

Low-income issues topic at annual city retreat

Buses and day-care centers accommodate daytime work schedules, excluding night shift workers at factories and hospitals. Public housing neighborhoods offer mostly low-paying jobs in fast food and retail. Too many kids are on the street at night and there is not enough interaction with the police.

These are some of the issues resident services specialist Carrie Brown of the Columbia Housing Authority raised to a group of city officials at the organization’s annual retreat Tuesday.

Hickman students adapt to upgrades

Hickman High School students have been forced to find new routes to class to avoid ongoing renovations blocking the school’s main hallway.

And while the renovations also have caused classes to switch to different rooms, school officials say students are adjusting to the changes.

Police release sketch of suspect in assault

The Columbia Police Department released a composite of the suspect in an attempted sexual assault at Hickman High School the past week.

On Sept. 14, a 16-year-old girl reported being approached in the parking lot of the school by a white male who attempted to sexually assault her. The suspect fled from the north side of the school near Circle Drive in a black truck.

Osco prepares to close Nov. 5

The closing of the Osco Drug downtown will bring more than just inconvenience for some shoppers.

“They were fair, they were kind, they were reputable and they were a good neighbor,” said Geoffrey Gunnell, a regular customer. “That’s why people are so sad.”

Jeffries pulls out of House race

Joel Jeffries withdrew as the Republican candidate for state representative in the 25th District on Tuesday to accept Gov. Bob Holden’s appointment to the Board of Probation and Parole.

“This was a remarkable opportunity that kind of dropped out of the sky,” Jeffries said.

Education of the soul

Fourteen-year-old David Churchill wakes up at 5:30 a.m. each weekday.

The teenager has to get an early start to tackle a full day of high school — and a grown-up commute to get there.

Rios asks for change of venue

Lawyers for former Columbia police officer Steven Rios have filed a motion requesting a change of venue for his trial in the death of an MU student.

The motion argues that the extensive media coverage of the case could prevent Rios from receiving a fair trial by Boone County jurors.

International election monitors pay visit to county

A four-member team of international election experts will observe election procedures during a Thursday afternoon meeting with Boone County Clerk Wendy Noren.

Sponsored by Global Exchange, a San Francisco-based international human rights organization, the group has been in Missouri since Friday. Its itinerary also includes visits to Kansas City, St. Louis and Jefferson City.

Mothers question war

Before the war in Iraq, Becky Sommerhauser was a shy housewife from a St. Louis suburb who had never spoken publicly.

Now that her son may be deployed to Iraq in the coming months, the mother of seven is speaking out.