Residents will be invited to Celebrate Springfield and all of its beauty and accomplishments at a series of public events this fall. (Photo provided by City of Springfield)

A handful of local organizations are putting together a month filled with events this September, to celebrate and recognize the accomplishments and beauty of Springfield.

The initiative is led by the Hatch Foundation, a local nonprofit, family-operated organization geared toward helping Springfield achieve its full potential. After the Darr family sold their businesses, which included manufacturers IsoNova, International Dehydrated Foods and American Dehydrated Foods, in 2019, the family behind the Hatch Foundation sought to redefine themselves, and their impact in Springfield.

Erin Danastasio is the executive director of the Hatch Foundation and a vocal advocate of the opportunities and potential Springfield has to offer. 

“Springfield has been my home for pretty much my entire life,” Danastasio said. “All of us live here and all of us are very committed to the community. So we decided that a unique opportunity and what kind of seemed like the low-hanging fruit is to focus on the inherent attributes of Springfield. Kind of like the blue ribbon pieces. If you don’t focus on the blue ribbon, it will eventually fall into a red flag problem with our community.”

That’s not to say that the Hatch Foundation doesn’t put any emphasis on red flag problems, however. They put roughly 20 percent of their annual grant funding toward issues such as food insecurity and homelessness, according to Danastasio. 

In a partnership with the City of Springfield, the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, and the Downtown Springfield Association, among others, they’re hoping to take an opportunity to showcase Springfield’s best elements and celebrate the city’s achievements.

The Hatch Foundation is building an online filter that will eventually debut on the Celebrate Springfield website, where people can search for nearby activities that accommodate different schedules and budgets. Additionally, the Foundation and partners will host a number of events during the weekends of September. 

What’s happening at Celebrate Springfield?

Fellows Lake is expected to be the site of a Celebrate Springfield event. (Photo provided by Missouri Department of Conservation)

Although times and dates are not yet official, some events could possibly include a Springfield Cardinals game, Cider Days (Sept. 17-18), and the Jazz Festival, plus additional locations where activities will be held including the Dickerson Park Zoo, Fellows Lake, and Fantastic Caverns.

The Hatch Foundation aims to make these events accessible to all Springfieldians by addressing monetary and education barriers that could inhibit community members from participating or even being aware of local amenities. While not all of the activities currently planned are free, conversations are being held about discounts and forms of public transportation to and from events.

“It can be intimidating for a family who is unsure where some of these amenities are and/or how to access the activities, or for those without transportation. An important part of Celebrate Springfield will be addressing those barriers, including any costs associated with participating,” Danastasio said.

As a culmination of the month-long celebration, on October 2, from noon to 4 p.m, Celebrate Springfield will cap things off with a party at Jordan Valley Park featuring games, food trucks and live music. 

“I’m hopeful that Celebrate Springfield will really open everybody’s eyes to all of the inherent attributes that we have right at our fingertips and to help them see how great our city is,” Danastasio said. 

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Hatch Foundation directors (left to right): Cody Danastasio, Erin Danastasio (executive director), Kurt Hellweg, Sherry Hellweg, Tyler Hellweg, and Kate Hellweg. (Photo provided)

“We are so thankful to the Hatch Foundation and for Erin, for recognizing this opportunity and having a kind heart for others,” said Mayor Ken McClure in a news release. “We have a lot to be proud of in Springfield and her work to ensure that all citizens are aware of our outdoor amenities and can take advantage of them, is very commendable.”

To receive updates on Celebrate Springfield as details become available, join their email list here.  

Jack McGee is a general assignment reporter at the Springfield Daily Citizen, with a focus on regional politics. McGee most recently worked at Carbon Trace Productions, a documentary film company, as a producer. He’s a Missouri State University graduate and former reporter at student-led newspaper The Standard.