Between carving pumpkins, hanging decorations and buying favorite candies, fall and Halloween activities are a tradition for many. But with COVID-19 still present in the Ozarks, there have been changes to make celebrating still possible but with safety in mind.
One of the longstanding attractions is Hotel of Terror downtown. Owner Sterling Mathis has been in the business of scares for 42 years at 334 N. Main Ave.
“I have had people tell me they started out going when they were ten,” said Mathis. “And now their grandparents are bringing their grandkids up there to go through.”
One of the changes over the years is the addition of a $30 combo ticket that includes Hotel of Terror and another haunted house owned by Mathis, Dungeons of Doom. Patrons can take a hayride or a hearse back and forth since they’re only a couple blocks apart.
New this year, of course, are occupancy limits and another type of mask.
“All of our workers wear masks,” said Mathis. “It’s either on top of their other masks or under their mask – their scary mask.”
Groups of eight people are allowed in the haunted house at a time. Mathis said masks are enforced for customers and workers. However, only workers get a temperature check before entering the building.
Still, he said there are lines of people waiting to enter on weekends – about 150 people coming through in all on the busier ones.
“I think we are going to be able to pay the bills and make a little bit of money, which would be good,” said Mathis, declining to disclose revenues.
Yet another change could be coming about with the building.
Officials at the city of Springfield are interested in purchasing the Hotel of Terror property. While that’s nothing new – Mathis said they’ve kicked around the idea for 20 years now – with the nearby Jordan Creek daylighting project underway, city officials say they’ll be looking closer at an acquisition.
“We are just beginning to look at the details on this,” said Cora Scott, the city’s director of public information and civic engagement.
The urban stream runs just north of Hotel of Terror, and when the concrete box culverts are lifted as planned, officials expect the adjacent properties to spur economic activity year-round. Hotel of Terror is only operational one or two months a year.
Mathis said he’s not opposed to the idea of moving to another building, but it would have to be just as good or better than the one he has now.
“Everything has a price on it,” said Mathis. “But I would rather continue what we do. I mean the people of Springfield are expecting us to be there.”
The Springfield-Greene County Park Board’s Rutledge-Wilson Farm Park has become another fall-time staple in the community.
On the city’s west side, at 3825 W. Farm Road 146, sits a family-fun farm with more than 200 acres. During the months of September and October, the vast land usually transforms into a Harvest Festival. The festival normally includes hayrides, a haunted trail and a number of corporate rentals. But Park Board Public Information Administrator Jenny Edwards said the Harvest Festival was pared down this year due to COVID-19.
“The revenue from last year to this year will not compare,” she said.
Last year, after five weekends of putting on the festival, Edwards said via email the Park Board made $156,472. Typically, 50,000-80,000 people attend the Harvest Fest. However, this year, the activities are scaled back to just a pumpkin patch and corn maze – both easy to follow social distance protocols – and year-to-date revenue is $66,120, she said.
The Park Board also dropped the corn maze entrance fee this year. Still, Edwards said the fall festivities will come out ahead, as operational costs have amounted to about $20,000 so far. “It’s an irregular year, and we thought this is something that we can offer to our patrons in place of not having a big event – which we are very sad about,” said Edwards.
Proposition S aims to bolster staffing and compensation for public safety departments.
Hollie Elliott, executive director of the Dallas County Economic Development Group, explains how local schools factor into business decisions and affect a local community.
Rachel Barks, owner of Artistree Pottery, says an important lesson she learned was not to over-expand and to do her research before hand. She gives examples from her experience as a startup business owner.
Jim and Debbie Meinsen own TCI Graphics, and are now celebrating 50 years of business. Jim Meinsen takes some time to explain his philosophy on debt, and how to stay out of it.
Caleb Scott, owner and coach of Queen City Insane Asylum semi-professional football, says the early grind was hard, but it was worth it. The team is in their second season carrying a national ranking of number 2 in the NFA IDFL.
Barak Hill, local musician and entrepreneur, tells about his switch to livestreaming in 2020. He says it was a necessary move, but also not an easy one.
Jessica Burkland, a SCORE mentor and an instructor at the MSU Department of Management, gives us a rundown of the non-profit organization SCORE. SCORE stands for Service Corps of Retired Executives and offers free consultation and advice to business owners.
Hollie Elliott, the executive director of the Dallas County Economic Development Group, discusses some of the ways helping small town businesses is different than in larger cities. The Dallas County Economic Development Group is a 501(c)(3) non-profit aimed at helping local existing and new businesses in the county.
Heather Kite gives the reason behind the name of her greenhouse business. Heather Kite is the owner of Rooted Deep Farms.
John Oke-Thomas, architect and co-founder of Minorities in Business, discusses the foundation of MIB in Springfield, and what motivated him and the other founders.
Julia King, a Branson Alderman and project manager for Healthcare performance group, shares four ideas for intentional living. King's four ideas focus on dynamic ways to respond to and prevent issues, both in workplace relationships and in productivity.