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PHOTO GALLERY: Mike Cooper, owner of Cooper's Landing, says farewell

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PHOTO GALLERY: Mike Cooper, owner of Cooper's Landing, says farewell

Working at Cooper's Landing "is the first time in my life that I finally understood what a community was," said Vanessa Leitza at Mike Cooper's retirement party, roast and fundraiser on Saturday at the landing south of Columbia.

Cooper has owned the land where the business now resides for around 45 years but he's selling the business to Richard King and his partners. The retirement party doubled as a fundraiser for the Missouri River Cultural Conservancy, an organization Cooper helped found to preserve art and music of the central Missouri River region.

Cooper said he'd be sticking around for a little while during the transition but said he feels like he's "passing the torch to good people." 

Mike Cooper laughs at a joke told during his roast and retirement party

Mike Cooper laughs at a joke told during his roast and retirement party on Saturday at Cooper’s Landing south of Columbia. Cooper’s retirement party doubled as a fundraiser for the Missouri River Cultural Conservancy, an organization he helped found.

A crowd of people cheer as Mike Cooper, owner of Cooper's Landing, takes the stage

A crowd of people cheer as Mike Cooper, owner of Cooper's Landing, takes the stage at his retirement party on Saturday. Cooper has owned the land where his eponymous landing sits for around 45 years. 

RoseAnn Gregory hugs Mike Cooper during Cooper's retirement party

Anna Duff* hugs Mike Cooper during Cooper's retirement party and roast on Saturday at Cooper's Landing. Duff said she didn't "have the right words" to say what the landing means to her.

*A previous version of this caption misidentified Anna Duff.

Michelle Mathews and James Hartmen embrace at the Cooper's Landing boat ramp

Michelle Mathews and James Hartmen embrace at the Cooper's Landing boat ramp on Saturday south of Columbia. It was Hartmen's first time at the landing but Mathews said she had been coming for 25 years. "This place is special to me," she said. 

Vanessa Leitza prepares food for Mike Cooper's retirement party

Vanessa Leitza prepares food for Mike Cooper's retirement party and the Missouri River Cultural Conservancy fundraiser on Saturday at Cooper's Landing. Leitza is the general manager of the landing and also acts as its cook and entertainment booker. Working at Cooper's Landing "is the first time in my life that I finally understood what a community was," Leitza said. 

T-shirts for the Missouri River Cultural Conservancy were for sale

T-shirts for the Missouri River Cultural Conservancy were for sale at Mike Cooper's retirement party on Saturday at Cooper's Landing. Cooper helped found MoRivCC and the party doubled as a fundraiser for the foundation, which works to preserve art and music of the "central Missouri River region."

The wind picks up during Mike Cooper's retirement party

The wind picks up during Mike Cooper's retirement party on Saturday at Cooper's Landing. Sudden powerful winds sent partygoers running for their cars or whatever cover they could find as dust and rain interrupted the festivities. 

Storm clouds hang over the Missouri River

Storm clouds hang over the Missouri River on Saturday at Cooper's Landing south of Columbia. The live music and roast of Mike Cooper was abandoned after strong winds and rain suddenly blew into the area. 

  • I'm a photojournalism masters student at MU.

  • Staff photographer. Contact me: zhk47@mail.missouri.edu

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