42nd Street Junior

Come and meet those dancing feet! Join the Liberty Center Junior Theatre in a celebration of old Broadway with the Tony Award winning musical, 42nd Street: Youth Edition

Rated: G

A Day at the Fugitive Beach

At first glance, it might seem that County Road 5285, eight miles south of Rolla, is an unlikely place to spend a day at the beach. And yet, several trusted travel websites rate the location among the Midwest’s top 10 beaches. How can this be?

Photo credit: Fugitive Beach

By Ron Soodalter

County Road 5285, eight miles south of Rolla, is an unlikely place to spend a day at the beach. And yet, The Fugitive Beach—named No. 1 in the state and among the Midwest’s top 10 beaches by travel websites PlanetWare.com and Travel2Next.com—is Rolla’s most popular attraction.

The Fugitive Beach was an abandoned limestone quarry until a local policeman realized its potential. For nine years, Mark Kearse was Rolla’s chief of police, and on an informant’s tip, he visited the quarry in search of a dead body. No body was found, but Mark fell in love with the site. “I wanted to make it a shooting range, and when that fell through, I bought it to build a house on. We set up an obstacle course, which we called the Fugitive Mud Run Obstacle Course.”

Initially, Mark used his idyllic 24-acre quarry to entertain family and friends. In 2012, he and his wife, D’ettra, conceived the idea of turning it into a pay-to-enter beach. They hoped for an annual attendance of a few thousand. To their surprise, the first year brought 42,000 locals and out-of-staters. This year, they will accommodate as many as 100,000 paying visitors. While some are local, others come from states as distant as Florida and New Jersey.

Photo credit: Fugitive Beach

“The first three years,” Mark recalls, “were chaotic. There were too many rowdies, and we just weren’t prepared. So we charged more, tightened things up overall, got seven-day security, became more family-oriented, and generally learned how to run a business.”

He also established a set of rules stating what visitors are not allowed to bring in: Nothing made of glass, no liquor (“We have our own bar and grill.”), no grills (“We rent them.”), and no outside music (“We provide the music.”). All children 10 or under and anyone swimming in deep water must wear life jackets.

The Fugitive Beach, which is open fulltime this year from Memorial Day weekend until Labor Day, offers a variety of other attractions, including two water slides, four cliff jumps, jungle gyms, nets and courts for volleyball, and other games. Cabanas, chairs, and life jackets are available for rent.

Water slides, cliff-jumping platforms, volleyball courts, and more than an acre of sandy beach are among the attractions at The Fugitive Beach. Visitors can rent life jackets, cabanas, grills, and lounge chairs at the site.
Photo credit: Fugitive Beach

When asked about his future plans for the beach, Mark replied with a well-thought-out list, “I’m going to make it more of a kids’ and family place. I’d like to double the size of the beach. An adjacent quarry is only three feet deep, making it ideal for children. I have a third quarry, where I’d like to put a campground, miniature golf, and go-kart track, make it a place that people can rent for parties and weddings.”

Reflecting on his life-changing decision to create a beach, Mark says, “As a police officer, I’d regularly see people off having a good time, while we dealt with the darker side of things: crime and death. I had a dream of going from law enforcement to something that would give pleasure to people. I really enjoy the difference.”

To learn about more Missouri beaches, check out this Missouri Life article.

Article originally published in the July/August 2023 issue of Missouri Life.

An African Family Searches for America Along Route 66

“We don’t really see ourselves as Black and White. We’re just a family on the road.” So says the wife of an African family touring Route 66. Discover their experiences as they travel the famed Mother Road.

Photo Courtesy of University of New Mexico Press

Read what this mixed-race family finds.

Brennan Matthews is Caucasian, while his wife Kate is Black. Their child Thembi is mixed race. Brennan wrote a book, Miles To Go, based on their experience traveling Route 66.

The first thing that might impress you about this book is the spate of celebrity endorsements, including Martin Sheen, Andy Garcia, Jim Belushi, John Oates, and more. The author is the editor of ROUTE Magazine, dedicated to Route 66 and classic Americana; he also helped Missouri Life produce our own Missouri’s Guide to Route 66. He travels Route 66 in its entirety, so through Missouri, several times a year. The book is both a travelogue—meet Rich Henry at Henry’s Ra66it Ranch in Staunton, Illinois—and a personal journal of this mixed-race family’s reception and reactions to encounters along the way on their first trip across our country on Route 66. Brennen and his wife Kate are both from Mombasa, Kenya. Brennen is Caucasian while Kate is Black, and their child Thembi is of course mixed race. This is unique among the plethora of books about Route 66.

An example from the personal journal approach is a conversation at the Wagon Wheel with motorcyclists from Chicago also staying at the famed motel in Cuba, Missouri. As the talk turns to race in America, we learn that in Kenya, a mixed-race child is considered White, whereas, in our country, that same child is considered Black. Kate tells them, “We don’t really see ourselves as Black and White. We’re just a family on the road.” Brennen’s insight as he and his family discover America is both refreshing and encouraging. “We met America in all of its colorful splendor and complexity,” he says.

It’s a great read. You can buy the book here, and additional details about the book follow:

Miles to Go, An African Family in Search of America Along Route 66
By Brennen Matthews,
280 pages, nonfiction, University of New Mexico Press, paperback (5.5 x 8.5 inches), $24.95.

5 Years of Wonder

1 prestigious AZA Accreditation, 2 additions coming soon, 3 new must-see exhibits, voted 4 times as America’s Best Aquarium, 5 years of wonder! 

This article is presented in partnership with Wonders of Wildlife. 

Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium (WOW) re-opened on September 21, 2017. With over 35,000 fish, birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians, and spanning 800 species, our 350,000-square-foot facility provides endless wonder. Located right in the heart of the Ozarks, Wonders of Wildlife is not only celebrating its 5-year anniversary but also celebrating all of those who enjoy the great outdoors and act as stewards of the land and water. WOW’s mission is to inspire guests of all ages to connect with nature and become future conservationists. 

Photo courtesy of Wonders of Wildlife

Wonders of Wildlife is honored to announce that we have recently received accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Commission. Fewer than 300 facilities nationwide have received this recognition. Wonders of Wildlife joins an elite collection of zoos and aquariums dedicated to the highest standards of conservation, animal welfare and education. WOW is excited to partner with other accredited facilities to further research and conservation efforts. 

In addition to our new accreditation, two new additions are coming soon to Wonders of Wildlife. A new exhibit is taking the place of our old Shipwreck Theatre. Here our guests can come in and be educated and inspired by yet another amazing new animal! Our other new addition will be seen on the corner of Sunshine Street and Campbell Avenue, the busiest intersection in Springfield. A new digital aquarium that will display high-resolution underwater scenes and animals.

Just this year, WOW has opened three new must-see exhibits including the American Museum of Fly Fishing, Nature’s Best Photography, and the Gulf of Mexico Coastal exhibit. The America Museum of Fly Fishing (AMFF) is a 2,300 square foot gallery space located in the Leigh H. Perkins Hall. The exhibition displays countless items from its permanent collection of the sport’s most significant rods, reels, and flies. AMFF is dedicated to preserving the rich heritage of fly fishing and promoting the conservation of the waters. Nature’s Best Photography found its permanent home at Wonders of Wildlife after being previously only displayed on the walls of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. Nature’s Best features jaw-dropping photography from the Windland Smith Rice International Awards, one of the most recognized photo competitions in the world. This 10,000-foot gallery space transports visitors to some of the most stunning places in the world all while being here in the Ozarks and encourages guests to get out in the great outdoors. Our Pacific Northwest Coast exhibit has recently transitioned into The Gulf of Mexico Coastal exhibit. It features an inverted touch tank where guests can learn and engage with some of our Florida coasts species like horseshoe crabs, whelk, starfish, and urchins!

Photo courtesy of Wonders of Wildlife

Upon opening in 2017, WOW was voted America’s Best New Attraction by the readers of USA TODAY and has since been voted America’s Best Aquarium for a record-breaking four times in 2018, 2020, 2021 and again in 2022! Wonders of Wildlife honors hunters, anglers, and conservationists around the world and is a true gift to the sportsmen and women of America.

Photo courtesy of Wonders of Wildlife

Cheers to five years of underwater adventure, connecting people from all around the world to nature and to inspiring future conservationists. Come celebrate with us and enjoy this one-of-a-kind experience right here in the Ozarks at Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium.