Hartville was named center of the country's population based on the 2020 U.S. Census. (Photo by Kaitlyn McConnell)

This story is published in partnership with Ozarks Alive, a cultural preservation project led by Kaitlyn McConnell.

Sept. 21 was a historic day in Hartville, and the United States, as the small Wright County town was celebrated as the center of the country based on the 2020 U.S. Census.

The designation, based on distribution of people across the country, is bestowed on a town every 10 years, and the last five times, it’s been in Missouri.

Attendees packed a pavilion at Hartville City Park for the ceremony, which featured remarks from the U.S. Census Bureau — including its director, Robert Santos — and the National Geodetic Survey, as well as those from alderman Melvin Moon.

“I think Hartville, Missouri, being the heart of America has a nice ring to it,” said Moon, launching applause. “I feel like the values, and the sharing together — we know we’re not perfect, but the neighbor-loving-neighbor, helping neighbor, is part of … what makes America so special.”

Posting the Colors was conducted by the VFW, and music was performed by the Hartville High School Choir. One of their songs was “Hart of the Land,” an original piece about the community. A trio comprised of local musicians Teresa Dixon, Cheryl Brown and Aaron McDaris — the latter who is currently a member of the famed bluegrass group Rhonda Vincent & The Rage — closed with the Missouri Waltz.

Even though the program is over, the moment will be preserved for the future through a marker noting the town’s significance.

“We didn’t really do anything to earn this, we’re just here, so let’s represent,” Moon said in closing. “Let’s be the best citizens of the United States we can be and love and serve our neighbor, and if everybody does that, we’re going to help everybody be better.”

Kaitlyn McConnell

Kaitlyn McConnell is the founder of Ozarks Alive, a cultural preservation project through which she has documented the region’s people, places and defining features since 2015. McConnell regularly shares her stories with readers of the Springfield Daily Citizen. Contact her at: kaitlyn@ozarksalive.com More by Kaitlyn McConnell More by Kaitlyn McConnell