Joplin had a boisterous beginning as a mining town. Lead and zinc were found there: it is where Bonnie and Clyde had a shootout and jazz musician and big band leader Jimmy Dorsey had his last performance before dying of a heart attack.
Tucked into the southwest corner of Missouri, the city of 40,000 is a logical regional meeting destination.
“Our history and proximity to Kansas City, Arkansas and Oklahoma bring in a lot of regional meeting business,” said Cameo Gerdes of the Joplin Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Because Joplin was founded as a mining town, an entire wing of the Joplin Museum Complex is dedicated to the industry. The complex can accommodate groups of up to 130.
Built so visitors appear to be walking into an underground mine, the museum’s mining wing is just one of the exhibits meeting attendees can tour. The other wing is an eclectic mix that includes an entire miniature Barnum and Bailey Circus built by a local over a 30-year period; hundreds of cookie cutters in the National Cookie Cutter Museum; and a display dedicated to Bonnie and Clyde. The pair came to Joplin to rob banks, and ended up narrowly escaping police in a shootout in which three lawmen were killed.
When police searched the apartment where the couple stayed, they found a camera with the first photos of the pair. The photos and Bonnie’s costume jewelry are displayed in the museum.
The historic Spiva Center for the Arts displays regional art and traveling shows, and the gallery can be used for receptions. Memorial Hall is a 3,000-seat auditorium that has a full stage and large exhibit area.
Large groups typically meet at the 262-room Holiday Inn and Convention Center. The hotel and its 10,000-square-foot ballroom are across the street from the convention center, which has 30,000 square feet of meeting and exhibit space.
“The Kiwanis have their state and regional conferences here, and the Missouri Motor Carriers have come for a number of years,” said Gerdes. “We are not usually on the radar of meeting planners, so we work hard for their business. And once they get here, we treat them so well that they’re eager to come back.”
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