Why I Love Springfield
It’s no New York City. And yet, it’s no New York City. Heck, it’s not even Atlanta or Seattle, but you can actually afford to live here. You can get a great education that won’t take you decades or the life of your first born to pay back. Some of the best espresso drinks you’ve ever had will cost you less than $3. And though it’s a small, midwestern city, thanks to its several universities and colleges, there’s plenty of diversity to explore as well. There’s only a few spots in this great country of ours where you can find street preachers, massive belt buckles, boots, hipsters, skateboarders, folks of the more friendly variety holding hands, and topless women (no joke) all within steps of the same city square–Springfield is definitely a card carrying member of that very small, exclusive club. It also won’t take you more than 20 minutes to get anywhere in town you may want to go, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised on how many even more intriguing finds you’ll pass on the way there.
Yeah, it’s no Los Angeles or Miami, and the closest swimmable beach may be more than 600 miles away, but you’ll find some of the nation’s finest lakes and fishing just minutes from town. It’s probably no surprise, then, that this “Queen City” is also home to Bass Pro Shops. But if you’re not the outdoorsy type–no worries, as there’s plenty to do inside as well. Hammons Hall serves as home to the Springfield Symphony Orchestra and an impressive selection of traveling Broadway theater presentations as well as community arts initiatives and performances featuring talent from Missouri State and the surrounding collegiate community. This small Bible Belt city is also home to a community theater and event center called The Shrine Mosque (though it’s history is tied to the Masonic lodge, not to Islam). Not to be forgotten is the 11,000 seat John Q. Hammons Arena that serves as a home to Missouri State athletics as well as a host of other entertainment events. The historic Gillioz Theater, restored in 2006, has become another magnet for great entertainment events and concerts. The new O’Reilly Family Events Center on the campus of Drury University serves as the home of the Drury Panthers and another venue for select events and concerts throughout the year. The 8,000 seat Hammons Field serves as the home of the Springfield Cardinals, the AA Texas League affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals. Evangel University is also home to a couple performance venues of note including the Ashcroft Activities Center and Evangel Chapel. And last, but not least, is the 3,500 seat (4,000+ for concerts) W. E. Dowell Fieldhouse on the campus of Baptist Bible College (also known to students as “Life Change U”) that serves as the home of BBC Patriot Athletics. It boasts a new state-of-the-art fitness facility and also serves as home to the annual “Fellowship Week” meeting of the Baptist Bible Fellowship. Needless to say, with all of the venues available (and I’m sure I missed a few), there is no shortage of events or entertainment in my new hometown.
Also serving as the headquarters of two significant Christian denominations (Assemblies of God & BBFI), there is no shortage of houses of worship. Here you’ll find everything from small, country-style churches that have been around for decades as well as large, flagship representatives of their denominations (High Street and James River are examples) and everything in between. The culture wars are also alive and well in Springfield. As home to a large state university (25,000+); a progressive, youthful population; and plenty of representation from that “old time religion”, my new hometown can be an interesting clash of cultures. If you’re looking for a good place to see where both extremes of the culture wars clash and, interestingly enough, seemingly coexist–Springfield is a great study (and example, perhaps) in many aspects of modern sociology.
Springfield boasts a strong economic engine with a diversity of employment opportunities in healthcare, education, transportation, manufacturing, telecommunication and finance. In addition to the sizable employment available through the Queen City’s multiple educational systems, it also serves as the headquarters for Prime Trucking, O’Reilly Auto Parts, Bass Pro Shops, the Cox and Mercy Health Systems as well as a number of call centers for the telecommunications and finance industry. With all that, the area also boasts one of the lowest unemployment rates in the region (currently 4.7%) and nearly one full percentage point lower than the current national average.
One of the most understated benefits to the region is a diverse and equally interesting topography. Being from New England (not known for its large, open spaces), I find the large open spaces to give a sense of unlimited potential in proportion to all that available sky. Being well situated in the Midwest, there’s no shortage of wide open plains, but yet, sitting on the northern foothills of the Ozarks, while they’re no Rockies, there’s plenty of vertical to climb and explore as well. You also have to love the 4 seasons weather. There’s a little something for everyone, and if the old saying is true, “if you don’t like the weather, just stick around a day or two, it will change”–Springfield embodies that old saying as well as anyplace I’ve ever lived.
You can hardly mention Springfield without thinking about some of the most unique dining establishments you’ll find anywhere. Of course there’s the long standing Lambert’s (home of “throwed rolls”-literally, they throw them at you). Then there’s an instant classic that’s hit the city in the last couple years called Hurts Donuts. I can promise you, you’ve never seen a donut shop quite like this. Located in downtown Springfield, just one block from the square, you’ll find the most unique sugar saturated concoctions you’ve ever seen including a trademark bacon/maple donut (yes, you read that correctly–go ahead read it again and now confess that lustful fantasy). And if you’re looking for burger dives, Springfield has to be on the top of the list. With places like Grad School (yes, that’s the name of the joint) and its signature “Full Ride”, and Casper’s famous Chili Cheeseburger, you can’t go wrong (except for the screeching sound of your arteries slamming shut). If I’ve already made you hungry, check out 417 Magazine’s annual “best of” for more tantalizing tastes with some more upscale and healthier options including some leading “farm to table” features as well. With over 1,000 restaurants in the area, even the pickiest should be able to find something to purr about.
With all of that said, my favorite part of this surprising little city is its people. The people of Springfield come from a variety of backgrounds and in many ways embody the best of what the Midwest, the Southwest and the South have to offer. I’ve found the people here to be friendly without being syrupy (being from New England, syrupy is still hard to get used to), confident without being arrogant, as well as possessing a quiet contentment while being enterprising and innovative in creating better lives for themselves and their community. I’m glad to call Springfield home, and if you could see what I see, I think you would too.
If you’ve lived or visited Springfield before, what are some of your favorite places and memories? What would you say is most attractive about your hometown?
For more detailed information on what this great city has to offer, visit http://www.liveinspringfieldmo.com/ and enjoy this short video.