A Dog-Gone Friendly Place Marches to the Beat of “Old Drum”
By Sylvia Forbes
Who can resist a town that holds a dog in high esteem? When newcomers visit Warrensburg, it doesn’t take long before they learn about Old Drum. A trial took place in 1870 over the shooting of a beloved hunting dog. The lawyer defending the dog’s owner is credited with delivering the “Eulogy to a Dog” during the trial, originating the famous phrase, “A dog is man’s best friend.” A statue of Old Drum takes a prominent position on the current courthouse lawn, and friendly town residents are happy to tell details of the story, if you have a few minutes.
While this smaller town of about 18,000, located in central Missouri, might be considered an “underdog” when it comes to conferences, meeting and conference planners certainly won’t be barking up the wrong tree if they choose Warrensburg for their next meeting, due to the many unique services and venues available for conferences.
University of Central Missouri
The main location booked for conferences in Warrensburg is the University of Central Missouri (UCM). It offers 150 programs of study to more than 11,000 students each year, on its beautifully kept, spacious campus with lots of green space tucked between lovely old brick buildings.
Most conferences are held at the Elliott Student Union, a recently renovated building that now features a magnificent glass front overlooking a plaza, complete with fountain. Inside, the Union offers a 9,057-square-foot ballroom, which can hold 450 people in rounds. The two-story, recently re-carpeted ballroom, adorned with crystal chandeliers and equipped with a ceiling projector system and new sound system, can be divided into three rooms, the largest at 4,716 square feet. In addition to the ballroom, the Union offers 15 additional conference rooms, holding from 10 to 88 people each.
“The Union has so much to offer,” explains Kirsti Brunsvold, Assistant Director of Meeting and Conference Services. “Inside is a huge atrium – we hold lots of receptions in this area. Downstairs, the Union has new bowling lanes. They can be reserved for meetings, corporate parties, camps and other groups. The Union’s facilities include a state-of-the-art computer classroom, with seating for 100.” Also in the building is Jazzman’s, a coffee shop with pastries and flavored coffees, which makes a cozy spot for conference-goers to chat and compare notes.
The Union has wireless Internet access throughout the building. Also available for conference needs are on-site lighting, sound, video, computers, projection and staging.
Meeting planners will appreciate the fee system as well. “For meetings at the Union, setup is included in the space rental fee. We don’t list an additional charge for every extra chair that is needed,” Brunsvold says
“One of our biggest advantages, compared to other meeting venues, is parking,” she adds. “We have ample parking right across the street from the Union, making it easily accessible.”
Other On-Campus Venues
“Some of the advantages of our campus, compared to other meeting spaces, are the wide variety of venues for meetings,” says Brunsvold. “In addition to our Union, our Multipurpose Building, where our basketball games are played, can be used for conferences and trade shows. We’ve had groups as large as 3,000 in this facility. Hendricks Hall, an architecturally beautiful performing arts facility, can seat 1,200 in the auditorium. Our Alumni Memorial Chapel can seat 200, and has been used for everything from weddings to military commissionings. In addition to these, we have identified 380 more rooms on campus that can be used for meetings.”
Some of the unique locations on campus that can be reserved for conferences are an 18-hole golf course, several fields, several gyms and a swimming pool.
While on campus, conference-goers can tour the Art Center Gallery, a free, year-round gallery featuring works of professional artists, and KMOS, the public television station that broadcasts from campus. Also on campus is Pertle Springs, a 300-acre park with several lakes and a nature trail. Just 3 miles west of campus is Skyhaven Airport, the only airport in Missouri owned by a public university.
Brunsvold offers a long list of amenities that are available to make meetings more memorable. They include eight inflatable games, from an obstacle course to a bungee run and a Velcro wall, which have been very popular for corporate events. One, called Human Joust, includes an inflatable ring, where contestants stand on individual pillars and try to knock each other off, similar to the popular TV show, “American Gladiator.” The university also offers casino equipment, and can set up an entertaining evening of craps, roulette, blackjack and poker for meeting-goers. CMU has an indoor rifle range and an outdoor trap and skeet range, both available for reservation. Also available is karaoke equipment, along with a portable wooden dance floor. Pianos can be rented, too.
The university is less than five minutes from the hotels in town. Warrensburg also offers several bed and breakfast inns. For conferences scheduled during summer, up to 3,000 meeting-goers can be accommodated in residence halls. All the residence halls are air-conditioned and feature suite-style rooms, with two people per room, and two rooms sharing a bathroom.
For smaller meetings, several hotels fit the planner’s budget. Warrensburg’s Holiday Inn Express has a meeting room of 1,100 square feet, which comfortably holds 45 people. The Comfort Inn offers a conference room holding up to 35 people and meals can be catered. The 80-room Roadway Inn offers space for 75 in its breakfast area and has a separate meeting/dining room that holds 107.
Several miles west of Warrensburg, the Johnson County Fairgrounds is a new venue acquired in 1996. Its recently built Rural Youth Community Building offers four meeting rooms, the largest holding 80 people, and a 4,400-square-foot exhibition hall, which seats up to 400.
For a rural, wooded setting, the Hidden Pines Country Club offers a serene view. It offers meeting space in its upscale Clubhouse, located at the edge of the 18-hole golf course. The upper clubhouse level has meeting space for 100, and the Putters Pub provides plenty of libations. Meeting planners use off-site caterers for meals.
Managed by the Parks and Recreation Department, the Warrensburg Community Center offers 6 meeting rooms. The largest room has space for 70 people, and has a kitchen attached. This room can be combined with two others to hold up to 200 people. Caterers can be brought in, or the kitchen is available to use.
When people in Warrensburg look for good food, one name is often at the top of the list – Heroes. In business for 27 years, the current owners, Katy Sculley and Debbie Ward, take pride that most of their items are made from scratch. The Heroes restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner, but also will cater for events. The catering menu offers a wide variety of choices, including special Italian and Mexican buffets. Some of the most popular choices for meetings are chicken in mushroom wine sauce and prime rib. Sculley and Ward provide banquet space, called the White Rose Pavilion, where they can serve up to 200 people. They also cater off-site events.
Another excellent choice is Players, a restaurant owned by Tommy Fatka and Leo Kostas, that serves just about everything for lunch and dinner, and has a full bar and live music. In business for 25 years, the owners have been at their current location for three years. They have a 3,000-square-foot banquet facility that holds 200, with a dance floor and its own entrance and parking lot, separate from that of the restaurant. They will provide almost any food the customer desires for a meeting, and they offer both plated and buffet meals. Specialties include a pasta buffet, as well as a Hawaiian chicken, honey-glazed ham and pork loin fillets.
A relative newcomer to the Warrensburg restaurant scene is Monetti’s Pizzeria & Catering Service. Opened just three years ago by Juliano Monetti, this family-owned restaurant already has a large following for its authentic Italian food. Everything is made from scratch, including breads, pizza dough and flavorful sauces. Monetti’s is known especially for its pizza, including its unique, 28-inch Gigunda Pizza, which weighs in at seven pounds – the largest pizza around. In addition to pizza, there is a large catering menu, offering everything from seafood, chicken and steak to lasagna. Juliano will become a local celebrity once his new cooking show on PBS television starts in August.
Several supermarkets in the area also offer catering.
On the Side
When you’re not busy in meetings, take a stroll and visit a few of Warrensburg’s highlights. The old Courthouse, built in 1838, and used for the trial of Old Drum, is available to tour. Next door is the Mary Miller Smiser Heritage Library and Museum, displaying artifacts of the Johnson County area. This historical complex includes the Agriculture Museum, with old farm implements to view.
Blind Boone Park, a city park, is a tribute to an amazing blind piano player, John William Boone, who grew up in Warrensburg and played and composed ragtime music. In the park is a beautiful statue of Boone, as well as a reflexology walkway.
Lovers of automobiles will enjoy visiting Happy Days Dream Cars, a business that buys and sells high-quality, high-end collectible vehicles. Among the 30-40 vehicles currently on display is a rare 1970 Plymouth Roadrunner Superbird, worth $600,000, of which only 77 were made and only 29 are still in existence. Just acquired is a 1937 Lincoln Zephyr Coupe.
Warrensburg has a number of shops worth visiting, including Impulse, a trendy yet affordable women’s boutique; Primitive Stitches, a quilt shop; and Wine 101, an upscale wine and gourmet food store, which also sells imported beer and cigars. Two wineries are located in the Warrensburg area, Montserrat Vineyards and Bristle Ridge Winery, both open for visits. The town also has an antique mall, Those Were the Days.
In addition to the restaurants that cater, Warrensburg has a variety of great places to eat. La Sous Terre is a European-style lunch spot, while the Tee Haus serves German-style food for lunch. Java Junction is an Internet café popular with students. A new restaurant and bar, Johnny’s Pour House, is noted for its great back deck seating area, and Kenny’s Pub, also new, serves KC-style barbecue, along with burgers and steaks.
Only ten miles from Warrensburg is Whiteman Air Force Base, home of the 509th Bomb Wing, in charge of the B-2 Bomber, also known as the Stealth Bomber. There are six public tours of the base between April and October.
Just a few miles from Warrensburg is Knob Noster State Park, a 3,934-acre park filled with prairies, woods and savannahs. Several trails run through the park, and several fishing lakes provide a good time enjoying nature.
With excellent conference facilities, no traffic jams, and a charming small town to visit, meeting planners will stay out of the doghouse and march to the beat of Old Drum when they choose Warrensburg as the site of their next meeting. MM&E
(Sylvia Forbes is a contributor from Fayette, Mo.)
Comfort Inn – Warrensburg Station
(660) 429-4848 • (800) 228-5150
Hidden Pines Country Club
Holiday Inn Express
Johnny’s Pour House
Johnson County Fairgrounds
Kenny’s Restaurant & Pub
Lunch at La Sous Terre
Mary Miller Smiser Heritage Library & Museum
(660) 747-5125 • (877) 99-MULES
University of Central Missouri
Kirsti Brunsvold • (660) 543-4342
Warrensburg Community Center
Whiteman Air Force Base