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University of Missouri

And the Livin’ is Easy

MIZZOU magazine editor Karen Pojmann on the secret life of summertime CoMo.

Musicians Tom Fay, Mitch Feyerherm, Mike Tobben, Clark L, and Louie Markovitz perform in a drum circle before the Ecochella concert in Peace Park. Photo by Shane Epping.

Musicians Tom Fay, Mitch Feyerherm, Mike Tobben, Clark L, and Louie Markovitz perform in a drum circle before the Ecochella concert in Peace Park. Photo by Shane Epping.

I never went home for summer break. “Home” is a murky concept for a military kid; by the time I was a Mizzou student, I’d lived in eight cities, and I considered all of them and none of them home. But Columbia was the first place I chose to live. It was an oasis. It took me in. And it never felt more welcoming than in the summer. The city sloughed off its part-time inhabitants and revealed, on the outskirts of campus, a smattering of quirky townies, international scholars, coffee-shop loiterers, student journalists, street performers (pro and amateur) — sort of an island of misfit toys. I loved it.

On languid afternoons in the early 1990s, summer people could stumble into a poetry reading or a drum circle in Peace Park. We might have tacos or Shakespeare’s pizza on a downtown patio. We’d eventually find ourselves outside Shattered or The Blue Note after closing, ready to walk down brick streets to an after-party on a rickety East Campus porch.

The Columbia I came back to a decade later — and the lens through which I viewed it — had expanded. Eager for adventure, I’d left for big-city life after graduation, and upon my return I was lamenting what I thought I’d have to give up: the San Francisco Bay Area’s lively farmers markets and street fairs, to which I took my children at every opportunity. But I discovered that, in summer, family-friendly Columbia is every bit as invigorating as college-student Columbia, with playgrounds, spraygrounds and lakes, with open-air concerts and ever-evolving festivals. Soon my kids were crafting at art fairs and canoeing at day camp. We were official Columbians.

More than two decades after my first CoMo summer, I’m the parent of a Tiger; this summer break is my son’s first as a Mizzou student. He has a few travel plans, but he’ll be sticking around for a while.

The warm-weather scene here has never been more vibrant. Take a look for yourselves in our CoMo Outdoors feature stories — or, better yet, in person.

See you outside.

—Karen Pojmann, BJ ’94