The Capital of Awesome!

Last Wednesday was Missouri Day. I’m not sure why it is celebrated on the third Wednesday in October. It seems like more people would remember it on August 10 (the anniversary of statehood in 1821) or May 8, when it could share the statewide observance of Truman Day. But I digress.

I’ve lived in Missouri all my life. I knew it was an awesome place even before this Kickstarter campaign:

I got a Capital of Awesome tee shirt, and wore it proudly on Missouri Day.

If you are not fortunate enough to hail from Missouri, you might be wondering what is so awesome. Well, Missouri has it all: rolling plains, mountains, forests, farmland, small towns and big cities. And that’s not all. Three of the largest rivers in the United States – the Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio – converge in Missouri. We have the St. Louis Gateway Arch, Kansas City¬†fountains and the Branson strip.

Hey, where’s Kirksville?

We are home to the St. Louis Cardinals, National League Champions and future World Series winners of 2013. The University of Missouri Tigers and Kansas City Chiefs football teams are each 7-0 so far this season. The Drury University Panthers are the 2012-2013 NCAA D-II national basketball champions.

In addition to the plethora of handsome actors from Missouri, we claim a US President, a Miss America and a Miss USA, and Walter Cronkite. Mark Twain. Walt Disney. Scott Joplin. George Washington Carver. Omar Bradley. Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote her books here. The list goes on and on and on . . .

I grew up in Kirksville (home of Truman State University, aka “The Harvard of the Midwest”), went to college at the University of Missouri at Columbia and spent three years in St. Louis. Most of my adult life has been spent in Jefferson City. A state as awesome as Missouri deserves a fantastic capital, and for one of only four state capital cities not located on an interstate highway, Jefferson City has a lot going for it. In fact, Rand McNally named Jefferson City the 2013 “Most Beautiful Small Town in America.”

Jefferson City is nestled smack-dab in the middle of the state, just over two hours from St. Louis, Kansas City or Springfield and only 30 minutes south of Columbia. Here’s something I don’t understand: Columbia’s metropolitan statistical area (MSA) includes Moberly and Mexico, yet omits Jefferson City despite all of the shopping and commuter travel between Columbia and our fair capital. What’s up with that, Census Bureau? If the 241st ranked Columbia-Moberly-Mexico MSA were combined with the 272nd ranked Jefferson City MSA, the combined population would catapult mid-Missouri all the way up to 152nd place, nestled between Kalamazoo and South Bend. Now there’s a new challenge for the Chamber of Commerce.

I love to travel, but I always appreciate coming home to Jefferson City. It’s been a great place to raise a family with top-notch public and private schools from preschool through college. There are wonderful outdoor venues from outstanding city parks to the Runge Nature Center and rails-to-trails Katy Trail State Park. The mall isn’t much to write home about, but downtown has many great local shops. The Missouri State Capitol is considered one of the most beautiful in the nation, with a museum and fabulous art collection including fountains and statues, a collection of two point perspective lunettes and Thomas Hart Benton’s famous mural A Social History of the State of Missouri.

During a tour at the Phoenix Art Museum, I recognized the distinctive style of Thomas Hart Benton in a special exhibit. The tour guide asked how I knew about Benton and I told him we were from Jefferson City. He then told the entire group that A Social History of the State of Missouri is the finest example of an American mural anywhere in the world, and that it is well worth making a special trip to see.

There is more to see at the Governor’s Mansion, Cole County Historical Society Museum, Lohman’s Landing, the former Missouri State Penitentiary, and one of just 17 veterinary museums, not to mention local theaters and nearby wineries. Hungry? Do yourself a favor – skip the national chains and visit local eateries such as Central Dairy, Zesto’s, Prison Brews, Madison’s Cafe, Yanis’ Coffee Zone, Mel’s Diner or Angelina’s Cafe.

If this is not enough to get you to visit, come for the clouds. That’s right – clouds. The clouds over the Missouri River are stunning. Big puffy cumulus clouds, lower level stratus clouds and fog make for postcard views and picture-perfect sunsets.

cloudsovercapitolYup, I love Missouri. It’s not too soon to start planning for the Missouri Day centennial. Save the date: October 15, 2015!

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