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Hunter-Dawson Offers Glimpse of Southern Living

March 21, 2013
The mansion at the Hunter-Dawson State Historic Site reflects the wealth of the port of New Madrid prior to the Civil War.

The mansion at the Hunter-Dawson State Historic Site reflects the wealth of the port of New Madrid prior to the Civil War.

A tour of any of three historic Missouri mansions reveals plenty of secrets about their long-gone owners.

The state historic sites in the Missouri parks system include battlefields, birth places, cemeteries, covered bridges, homesteads, grist mills and ancient Indian villages. Also on the list are three grand homes with much of their contents remaining as if the residents had stepped out for the day.

One of those homes is the Hunter-Dawson State Historic Site. Located in New Madrid in southeast Missouri, this architectural gem exhibits the wealth of a Missouri family prior to the Civil War. Walk in the front door and see the splendor of their lifestyle on display in the parlors, dining room and bedrooms.

Like the other mansion properties – Bothwell Lodge State Historic Site in Sedalia and the Thomas Hart Benton Home and Studio State Historic Site in Kansas City – spending an hour or two at Hunter-Dawson gives a glimpse into the lives of those who lived there.

The Hunter-Dawson Mansion offers a look at wealthy lifestyles of the late 1800s.

The Hunter-Dawson Mansion offers a look at wealthy lifestyles of the late 1800s.

The Hunter-Dawson mansion, sitting regally in a grove of tall trees, reflects the culture of the thriving river port of New Madrid in the pre-Civil-War era. The house has Georgian, Greek revival and Italianate architectural elements that were popular in homes of the Old South. The 15-room house has seven bedrooms and nine fireplaces.

William Hunter, a successful dry goods dealer, had the house built in 1859-1860. The family owned some 36 slaves, who might have helped hired craftsmen in the construction. Hunter died of yellow fever just before the house was completed; his wife, Amanda, and seven children moved in after his death. Upon Amanda’s death in 1876, the house was left to her youngest daughter, Ella, who had married William Dawson, a Missouri and U.S. legislator.

Amanda was fond of ornately carved furniture in the rococo revival style and assembled one of the largest collections from that period in purchases from the Cincinnati firm of Mitchell and Rammelsberg.

Descendants of the family lived in the house until 1958; in 1966 it was purchased by the city of New Madrid, which donated it to the state one year later. Visit the Missouri State Parks website for information on tours and special events at the Hunter-Dawson mansion.

Written by Tom Uhlenbrock, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Division of State Parks.

Charleston’s Dogwood-Azalea Festival: Fun in Full Bloom

March 19, 2013

You could debate whether the Missouri bootheel is part of the South, but there’s no dispute that each spring, Charleston, located near the top of the bootheel where the Mississippi and Ohio rivers meet, embodies a distinctly Southern charm, appearance, and hospitality during the annual Dogwood-Azalea Festival.

Home tours are a popular part of the annual Dogwood-Azalea Festival in Charleston.

Home tours are a popular part of the annual Dogwood-Azalea Festival in Charleston.

In its 45th year, the festival will be held April 18-21, 2013, in Charleston. While magnificent dogwoods and azaleas in bloom are the stars of the festival, there’s a whole constellation of activities to enjoy.

Visitors may wish to start with the six-mile Dogwood-Azalea Trail, marked by the pink center lines down the city streets. The trail travels through Charleston past beautiful Victorian homes surrounded by lovely gardens. You can tour the tree-lined streets in a horse-drawn carriage on Saturday.

Enjoy the rides and games at the carnival. There will be arts and crafts, food booths, and live entertainment at the Dr. E. Charles Rowling Park. Other highlights include a parade, an art show, home and church tours, a fish fry, a motorcycle show, a dog show, an old-fashioned ice cream social, pig races, a plant sale, an antique tractor show, candlelight tour, a Texas Rangers living-history encampment, a quilt show, and piano concerts.

Charleston is located on Interstate 57, about two and-a-half hours south of St. Louis.

For more information, call 573-683-6509 or visit

Written by Karen Teeters, executive director, Charleston Chamber of Commerce.

Branson in Running to Host SoMeT

March 14, 2013

Branson is one of 13 cities in the running to host the Social Media Tourism Symposium (#SoMeT13US is the hashtag to follow on Twitter). The host city of this tourism-focused, social media conference will be chosen via tournament-style voting on Facebook.

“Branson is ideally suited for this conference. With new flights on Southwest Airlines it is easy to get here. SoMeT13US attendees will have a great conference at the Hilton Branson Convention Center, with a lot of fun activities at Silver Dollar City and around town”, says Ross Summers, president and CEO of the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce & Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Public voting began Wednesday (March 13) and runs through 11 a.m. Friday, March 15. Voting is open to the public and will take place on the Social Media Tourism Facebook page:

Vote Branson!!

SoMeT is the symposium for the use of social media in the tourism industry. This is the premier conference for tourism professionals looking to share ideas, network and discover opportunities using social media. For more information visit

Enjoy the Tradition: St. Pat’s in Rolla

March 12, 2013
Knights march in the annual St. Pat's Parade in Rolla.

Knights march in the annual St. Pat’s Parade in Rolla.

Get your green on! Join us for a century-old tradition; a celebration that pays homage to St. Patrick, the patron saint of engineers.

St. Pat’s in Rolla is a festival of music, games and off-the-wall activities. The streets are painted green, a royal court is crowned and university students flaunt the creations of homemade wooden shillelaghs; it’s a celebration like no other.

Engineering fun is part of the tradition in Rolla.

Engineering fun is part of the tradition in Rolla.

The tradition of St. Pat’s Day has been celebrated in Rolla for more than a century. St. Patrick marked his first Rolla celebration in 1908, on what was then the Missouri School of Mines campus. Engineers rallied around St. Patrick and began what is now one of the most noted and oldest St. Pat’s Day celebrations in the nation.

The 105th Annual St. Pat’s Day Parade is 11 a.m. Saturday, March 16, on Pine Street in downtown Rolla.

The fun doesn’t stop after the parade. Join us at the Rolla Downtown Bandshell, located at the corner of 9th and Oak streets, for a free concert featuring Red Jumpsuit Apparatus! Food and drinks will be available for purchase and, of course, a beer garden will be open to those ages 21 and older.

For more information regarding the St. Pat’s Parade and related events and festivities, please visit the St. Pat’s Board online.

Enjoy the Mud: Obstacle-Course Racing in Missouri

March 8, 2013

Are you looking for a unique and active experience on your trip to Missouri? Do you want something that will give you bragging rights and stories you will remember for years down the road?

A Missouri Obstacle Course Race will provide just the active challenge you are looking for as you explore the Show-Me State.

A contestant enjoys last year's Epic Mud Run in Columbia. (Photo by UltraMax Sports from

A contestant enjoys last year’s Epic Mud Run in Columbia. (Photo by UltraMax Sports, from

The recent explosion of obstacle-course racing has turned the sport into a $250-million dollar industry nationwide. If you haven’t seen one before, just imagine a typical 5K run; now add goofy costumes, lots of music, obstacles (and probably a free beer for participants) and you get the idea of an obstacle race.

Obstacles vary a great deal depending on the overall difficulty of the race. They range from the simple and easy (crawling through drain pipes) to the difficult and involved (maneuvering across a tightrope that’s hanging over a body of water). Some are just there for the thrill and don’t take any special skill; think ice baths or water slides.

The Show-Me State will host 15 Mud Runs and obstacle-course races in 2013. Though the events are generally concentrated in the major cities of Springfield, Kansas City and St. Louis, you can find races across Missouri.

Want a memorable way to see the Gateway Arch? Try out City Mayhem, where you have a view of the Arch much of the way, and then enjoy a pint from a local St Louis brewer when it’s all over. Want a unique experience in the Ozark Mountains with plenty of local flavor? Try your hand at the Hillbilly Mud Run, where all of the obstacles have a hillbilly theme and proceeds are donated to charity.

In addition to these locally organized races, there are several national series that host events in Missouri, including the Warrior Dash, Run for Your Lives and the women’s only Dirty Girl.

The events mentioned above are quite suitable for beginners, and participants will feel comfortable in the race as long as they can jog/power walk for three miles.

For racers who want an extreme challenge, Tough Mudder will come to St. Louis, providing a challenging 10-12 mile course with very difficult obstacles.

Check out the 2013 Missouri Mud Runs and start planning a Missouri vacation to remember.

Written by Emily Metzloff, founder of MudRunning HQ.

Platte City’s Special of the Day – Solar Flare Mac and Cheese

March 5, 2013
Jeremy Ray, owner of Jray's (seated center) enjoys his work - and his food.

Jeremy Ray, owner of Jray’s (seated center), enjoys his work – and his food.

With snow on the ground and a chill in the air, signs of spring and warmer temperatures are still few and far between in Platte City. However, there is a place that will rocket you straight to the hottest days in August – Jray’s Restaurant – more specifically, owner Jeremy Ray, and his Solar Flare Mac & Cheese!

Want to shake off the cold days of late winter? Jeremy’s signature Solar Flare Mac & Cheese is not your standard, out-of-the box offering. The house specialty starts with a creamy house-made cheese sauce fired up with jalapenos before being tossed with noodles, grilled chicken and topped with chives. It’s sure to set your taste buds on fire!

JRay’s has quickly become a local favorite in Platte City. Jeremy is known to go into the kitchen and create dishes for guests to taste test. On a recent visit, our group was offered blackberry bread pudding as the special dessert of the day.

Everything is homemade and nothing is ordinary, not even the hamburgers: the Outlaw Burger, Platte County Pirate Burger (with blackened shrimp, cream cheese and cilantro), Fried Egg Burger, and the Big Kahuna Burger (with grilled pineapple, Caribbean ham and signature sauce) are just a few of the offerings.

JRay’s is the Platte City Chamber of Commerce’s 2010 and 2012 Business of the Year award winner. When visiting, don’t forget to order the Wisconsin Cheese Curds, Triple Threat Shrimp, Cajun fries, and Mom’s Apple Crisp. The menu changes with the seasons, as do the local ale choices. Karaoke is offered Friday evenings. For additional information, call 816-431-6855 or visit their website.

Want to taste test JRay’s pasta on a budget? Head to Platte City on Friday, April 26. JRay’s will cater the first Platte City Pre-Dash Bash at the Platte County Fairgrounds from 5 p.m.-8 p.m. This event features a JRay’s pasta dinner, cash bar, music, giveaways, and drawings to win great prizes. Tickets are $6 in advance; they include one raffle ticket. Click here to purchase tickets in advance.

The Pre-Dash Bash is a community event to welcome participants and spectators taking part in Warrior Dash, held April 27-28 at Platte Ridge Park. More than 15,000 participants are expected to tackle the challenging 5K course at Platte Ridge Park.

Proceeds from the Pre-Dash Bash benefit the Farmer’s House. Started in 2010 with the Seeds of Change Program at Weston Red Barn Farm, Farmer’s House secured a retail location and opened the Farmer’s House Market in 2012.

The mission of the Farmer’s House Market is to provide a community-integrated hands-on work environment to teach practical vocational skills to youth and adults with developmental disabilities.

For more information on the Farmer’s House, Pre-Dash Bash, JRay’s Restaurant, Platte City, and Platte County – please contact Jennifer Goering, executive director of the Platte County CVB, at 816-270-2967 (or 1-888-8PLATTE) or

Written by Jennifer Goering, executive director of the Platte County CVB.

Trout Season Begins at State Trout Parks

March 1, 2013
Except big crowds on Trout Day at Bennett Spring State Park.

Except big crowds on Trout Day at Bennett Spring State Park.

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from an article on trout fishing in Missouri. Please click here to read the full article on

There are some things you truly have to see to believe. The opening day of trout season at Missouri’s trout parks is among them.

“It is an event,” says Scott Pauley, a professional fisherman and the Missouri Division of Tourism’s outdoors expert. “I’ve met people who have been at every opening Trout Day for the past 50 years and families who pass down the tradition of fishing on opening (day) for generations.”

For a unique look at Trout Day at Bennett Spring State Park, check out the park’s live TROUT CAM.

While today (March 1) marks the beginning of trout season in Missouri State Parks, the annual migration of anglers to both publicly owned and privately held trout parks, conservation areas, and lakes around the Show-Me State is in full swing. Now is a great time to take the fishing getaway of which you’ve dreamed.

The Missouri Division of Tourism’s website,, can help you plan that getaway by offering information about outdoor fun, lodging, dining and recreational options to enjoy while you’re in the Show-Me State.

While the state’s trout parks are teeming with anglers on opening day, many hot spots for trout fishing are wide open.

You can fish for trout year-round on Lake Taneycomo.

You can fish for trout year-round on Lake Taneycomo.

Among those hot spots is Lake Taneycomo, one of Missouri’s top trout-fishing destinations. The lake is stocked with nearly 750,000 rainbows and browns annually; the water temperature averages 58 degrees year-round.

Brett Rader, who operates Chartered Waters Trout Shop and Guide Service in Hollister, says March 1 doesn’t necessarily bring an influx of anglers to Lake Taneycomo, since the season there is year-round. So, those looking for a more peaceful retreat may choose that waterway for their opening-day outing.

“It’s like any other day here,” Rader says of Lake Taneycomo. “The fishing is always good here, the water is always cold. The bite is good any time of year.”

Although he’s partial to trout fishing on Taneycomo and nearby Crane Creek, Rader has been to Trout Day at state parks and he understands why it’s a significant happening.

“I’ve got customers who are hard-core fly fisherman,” Rader says, “and they’ll still have annual opening-day get-togethers with their buddies. It’s as much about getting together and having fun as it is fishing.”