COLUMBIA, MO — As we ease our way into a new decade and a new year, there is plenty to look forward to in Columbia, which was recently named by Reader’s Digest as “the Nicest Place in Missouri.” Home to the University of Missouri as well as Columbia College and Stephens College, Columbia is a vibrant college town with celebrated amenities. Columbia’s historic downtown is home to numerous locally owned boutiques, bars, breweries, chef-owned restaurants and music venues, so there’s no shortage of entertainment to be had throughout the year. For Columbia’s larger, marquee events, below are four highlights that visitors to Columbia can look forward to over the next several months.Documentaries Take Center Stage During the True/False Film Fest, March 5-8
The internationally renowned True/False Film Fest – which has been hailed as one of the top cultural events to experience by TIME magazine, called the “most vital” film festival in America by IndieWire and repeatedly named one of the “coolest film festivals in the world” by MovieMaker Magazine – celebrates groundbreaking films and filmmakers that push and stretch the boundaries of documentary cinema from March 5-8, 2020.This four-day celebration of documentary films, art and music sets the standard for other festivals as it combines masterful documentaries with thoughtful Q and As featuring the filmmakers following each screening as well as thought-provoking panel discussions. There are busking musicians from around the globe performing before every screening at every venue and all around town throughout the weekend, numerous live concerts, dance parties, a hilarious game show, a ragtag parade and other entertaining special events. It’s an incredible experience for audiences and filmmakers alike, all set in Columbia’s lively downtown district. For more information or to order passes for True/False, visit www.TrueFalse.org.Literary Lights Shine in Columbia During the Unbound Book Festival, April 23-26
Nationally and internationally renowned authors will gather in Columbia April 23-26 for the fifth annual Unbound Book Festival, celebrating literature of all kinds. Planners promise an event that will be “innovative, different, stimulating and – above all – fun.” One highlight will be a keynote program by Pulitzer-winning poet and United States Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith on April 24 at the historic Missouri Theatre in downtown Columbia.The festival continues the following day on the campus of Stephens College. More than 50 authors will be on hand to discuss their craft and personal lives during panels and Q & As focusing on a mix of literary topics. There will be separate programs on fiction, non-fiction, poetry as well as children’s literature, all anchored by critically-lauded writers. There also will be meet-and-greet opportunities as well as book signings. Best of all, admission is free to all Unbound activities. And, all festival venues are just a short walk from Columbia’s downtown. For a continually updated roster of authors and updates for this year’s festival, head to www.UnboundBookFestival.com.Mid-Missouri’s Largest and Oldest Outdoor Art Festival – Art in the Park – Returns to Stephens Lake Park, June 6-7
Summer in Central Missouri gets off to an artful start with the 62nd annual Art in the Park, June 6 and 7. Set amid the blooming beauty of Columbia’s Stephens Lake Park, this juried festival features more than 110 artists from across the country and attracts as many as 14,000 visitors each year. Art on display and for sale includes paintings, sculpture, jewelry, pottery and much more and is all handcrafted by the artists on display. Food vendors and entertainers (musicians, magicians, stiltwalkers, etc.) add to the event’s appeal.Young artists can make their own masterpieces at the Kids’ Art Spot, visit the Young Collector’s Tent, have their faces painted or design a tie-dye shirt. And, admission is free – an early-summer gift for fans of art and fun, sponsored by the Columbia Art League. For more details on Art in the Park, visit www.ColumbiaArtlLeague.org/artinthepark/festival-information. Women Rock at the Roots N Blues Festival, October 2-4
Organizers of the Roots N Blues Festival, Missouri’s largest music festival, have unveiled two of the headliners for the 2020 fete – Grammy-winning artists Brandi Carlile and Mavis Staples – with more to be announced in the coming weeks. In addition, in 2020, the festival looks to reverse the under-representation of female artists at music festivals (in 2019, male artists represented 70% of US music festival lineups) by announcing every act in this year’s Roots N Blues (RNB) lineup will include a female artist.Roots N Blues showcases a diverse crop of musical acts from around the country spanning nearly every musical genre — blues, bluegrass, country, folk, gospel, rock and roll and soul — all performing on two main stages in picturesque Stephens Lake Park, the festival’s home for the last eight years. In addition to the main stages, there will be a fleet of nearly 20 food trucks, numerous beverage tents selling ice-cold locally crafted beers and other refreshments, vendor villages, a fully-equipped walk-up “Front Porch Stage” where concert-goers can show off their musical skills, a large ferris wheel as well as intriguing and interactive art displays decorating the park. There also is the Betsy Farris Memorial Run, consisting of a 10K or half-marathon on Saturday morning. For additional information on Roots N Blues, to purchase passes and/or to register for the memorial run, please visit www.RootsNBluesFestival.com.Only The BeginningThis is just a highlight of a few of the exciting events going on around Columbia this year. While Columbia’s big events are some of the most popular around the state (and the Midwest), this youthful and energetic city has many options for fun, entertainment, nature and culture year around. All these things combined is why Columbia was ranked in the top 50 of America’s best places to live by Livability.com. Visitors looking to plan a getaway to Columbia, Mo. can find more information on where to stay as well as all the other fun events, year-around attractions, excellent options for dining and libations available by visiting the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau website at www.VisitColumbiaMO.com or by calling 573-874-CITY (2489).