Show Me the Ozarks: One-Tank Trip to Sedalia
Let’s just say that Cabin Fever has reared its head. Or that the road less traveled isn’t an option. Pick a day and head to Sedalia, home of the Missouri State Fair, the Katy Trail, the Daum Musum of Contemporary Art; the Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival (June 4-7), a festival celebrating the ragtime jazz of Scott Joplin, who is not from Joplin.
Here you can experience middle America, several remarkable destinations, including the Boswell Lodge, the quirky 31-room summer home of John Homer Boswell, who made his fortune in St. Louis utilities, and left a legacy for 38 friends. This historic site is much in need of a master plan and some TLC in the hands of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. For now, it is a time warp set on the only120-foot bluffs on U.S. 65. Boswell is a fascinating character, and it’s all free on 247 acres of hiking and biking trails, a picnic area and playground.
Check out the historic Katy Depot, point of embarkation for Missouri’s Katy Trail.
By lunchtime, it’s your chance for lunch at Williams Chicken, where Shelane Williams is carving out a niche for old-fashion, pan-fried chicken and sides. Carryout is an option, but call ahead.
Save much of the afternoon for a visit to the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art at State Fair Community College (closed Monday; open 11-5, Tuesday through Friday; 1-5 Saturday and Sunday) You know you are in for a treat as you walk by the outdoor sculptures. Inside is a Andy Warhol mural, several galleries of stunning paintings, fine art photography, sculpture and exhibitions, including Cathedral Violet Chandelier by Dave Chiluhy. It’s all a gift from Dr. Harold Daum, a local radiologist, who got some splendid advice. We don’t do snobby name-dropping, but we do know an expected pleasure, and this is one. It’s free, and a fine way to introduce interested young people is an alternative to video games and, well, whatever.
State Fair Community College is easy on the eyes and pocketbook. Students are helpful and proud of their campus, as they should be; the museum is free.
A few blocks away is the Missouri State Fairgrounds, which is an architectural adventure in historic preservation.
If you time your visit for June 4-7, 2014, you can enjoy the Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival. Joplin wasn’t born in Sedalia, nor did he live in Joplin for that matter, but he apparently lived with the Joplin clan, and adopted their name. In the 1880s, as a teen-ager, Joplin attended Lincoln High School in the black neighborhood north of the railroad. eventually, he traveled to St. Louis, which was to become a major center of ragtime. Told faithfully, celebrated with respect and appreciation, this is a festival you can enjoy year after year, even if you’re not from Sedalia. Most of us are not, but it’s nice to discover a small town that isn’t trying too hard to be itself. We’ll be back. – George Freeman