By Michael Humphrey
If Missouri were a room, the quiet corner would be the northwest. No Mark Twain or bustling cities, government centers, music stampedes, or roaring rivers in flinty hills. Northwest Missouri is marked by quiet glades, rolling pastures, monastic peacefulness and unpretentious hard work.
So it is with Maryville, a hub city for the very northwestern communities in the state.
“Quietly, Maryville contributes in a major way to the industrial and business life of Missouri,” says Richard Groves, general manager of the Hangar, part of Countryside Cinema. “There’s an entrepreneurial spirit here that probably gets overlooked, but we make a strong contribution with or without the attention.”
And you wouldn’t say Maryville is clamoring for more attention, either. There’s a general understanding that the quality of life in the community is partially based on its steady and sturdy presence in the corner.
But consider these facts about Maryville:
* It is home to 10 industrial plants, including those of international companies such as Energizer and Kawasaki;
* It has been home to Northwest Missouri State University since 1905, providing the community with high-level career opportunities, collaborative research and culture ranging from an arts series to a powerhouse football team;
* With just over 11,000 permanent residents, it serves as a hub city for two dozen communities stretching past the Iowa border;
* The region is becoming one of Missouri’s primary alternative energy resources, including large wind farms.
“For someone who has never been up here, the idea of bringing a group to the area might seem a little out of the ordinary,” Groves says. “But really, we understand what it takes to host great meetings and special events. It’s going to be a pleasant surprise.”
Away, but not stranded
Of course, Maryville is not a sprawling metropolis with a host of convention hotels and gourmet restaurants. City leaders know the reason to come to Maryville is to get away from the hustle.
“Quality of life is our main asset,” says Lisa Macali of Nodaway County Economic Development. “We have 11 parks, we have golfing and fishing, we have two beautiful monasteries that are very welcoming. It’s safe, everyone is friendly. It’s a wonderful place for a relaxing time.”
One excellent example is Mozingo Lake Park, fives miles outside Maryville; it is not your average city-owned lake. Created in 2005 as a water supply for the city, the 1,006-acre lake has 26 miles of shoreline, an 18-hole golf course, a 90-slot RV park, 50 primitive camping sites, accessible fishing and boat docks.
In addition to Mozingo, Nodaway County Community Lake, Bilby Ranch’s lake, the Maryville Aquatic Center and 10 other city parks offer warm weather activities that will keep your group on the move.
The Missouri State Arboretum is located on the campus of NWMSU – considered by many to the most beautiful state university in Missouri. More than 110 species of trees mark the landscape of the university, which offers walking guides in the administration building.
For an even deeper retreat, Conception Abbey welcomes visitors to its grounds and its century-old Romanesque sanctuary, best known for its murals, daily. You are also invited to listen to the Benedictine monks’ chanting prayers five times a day. The grounds include a lake with walking trails, an orchard and acres of rolling hills. The Benedictine Sisters of Clyde monastery, just a mile away, houses the largest collection of saint artifacts in the United States and one of the most beautiful chapels in the Midwest.
So, yes, your group will definitely feel they are away from it all. But that doesn’t mean they will be stranded. St. Joseph is 30 minutes away, north Kansas City is 90 minutes, Omaha and Des Moines are both two hours away.
“There are plenty of things to do here, even while you are getting away from it all,” says Suzanne VonBehren of the Maryville Chamber of Commerce. “But we also have the advantage of not being too far away from a city.”
Groups coming to Maryville had better be ready for surprises. You might guess that NWMSU would have some excellent meeting space. You might also expect there are hotel, banquet and other private dining options. But how many 11,000-resident cities offer totally modern and sophisticated special event space in their movie theaters?
Welcome to the Hangar, a five-screen first-run movie complex that looks like an airplane’s garage from the outside. On the inside, it looks more like the future of movie theaters across the country, maybe better than that.
Each screen has digital and 35mm projectors. The entire building is WiFi-ready. There’s a fully stocked bar in the lobby and a dinner theater for 80. The dinner theater comes with executive office seating that cozies up to tables and bars so everyone has a great view of the 30-foot wall-to-wall screen. The Hangar can host up to 250 guests – and it is ready to host any kind of meeting.
“That was part of the business plan,” Groves says. “We knew this could be a venue that could work for businesses and groups in general.”
Small and earthy
So it’s probably clear by now that Maryville works best for modestly sized groups that are looking for value and fun.
“There are several venues in the city that have the technology and know-how to put on a sophisticated meeting,” Groves says. “But honestly, at least in our case, we stress the fun side of things. This is a place where you can relax.”
That seems to be the city’s motto, despite the fact that industry and education are the driving forces. The community is more suited for department retreats and teambuilding exercises than sales meetings and expos.
With that in mind, here are the amenities to work with if you are coming to Maryville:
Lodging. There is one cluster of hotels on the edge of Maryville that includes a Holiday Inn Express with 59 rooms, Comfort Inn with 50 rooms and a Super 8 with 32 rooms. The Holiday Inn Express includes meeting space for a maximum of 75.
For a more rustic meeting, Mozingo Lake offers six all-season cabins, which come with full kitchens, situated on the lakeshore.
VonBehren said planners need to be careful about snatching up the hotels and cabins early, depending on the time of the year.
“If you want the cabins in the early spring, late fall or winter, it won’t be as hard,” she says. “But if you want the cabins in the summer or hotel rooms during the school year, you better plan ahead.”
Meeting space. NWMSU offers two excellent venues for a variety of meetings. The Mary Lin Performing Arts Center can offer larger groups theater-style seating as well as breakout and pre-function space. The Student Union offers smaller rooms as well as reception space. Groups up to 400 can meet at the university.
The university also offers a challenge course for teambuilding, located at Mozingo Lake. The project, called the Mozingo Education Recreation Area (MOERA), includes an Alpine tower, a Carolina climbing wall and group-dynamics obstacle stations.
Maryville Community Center offers two meeting rooms, but also has three basketball courts, a suspended track for jogging and walking, a commercial kitchen and an exercise room.
Mozingo Lake Golf Course has a clubhouse with meeting space that seats up to 75.
Maryville Public Library offers space for groups of 60 in chairs and 35 with tables, but any event held there must be open to the public.
Conception Abbey has meeting space, but generally limits activities to spirituality-related subjects, although it is very ecumenical in welcoming groups.
Restaurants. Maryville has the dining options you would expect of a small college town, but like everything else, there are surprises.
A G Restaurant offers steaks as well as Greek cuisine that would compete well in any big city. But the premier local restaurant of choice is Pagliai’s, a nearly 40-year-old establishment that makes thin-crust pizza and other Italian dishes. Both restaurants can set up for small groups, but both are very popular, so call early.
All of the meeting space facilities, with the exception of the library, offer in-house catering or can arrange for a caterer. MM&E
(Michael Humphrey is the Contributing Editor from Kansas City, Mo.)
Maryville Chamber of Commerce • www.maryvillechamber.com • 660-582-8643
The Hangar • www.hangar1.com • 660-582-7100
Mozingo Lake • www.maryvillemo.org • 660-582-4490
Northwest Missouri State University • www.nwmissouri.edu • 660-562-1430
Performing Arts and Student Union • 660-562-1675 (MOERA)