It might seem frivolous to pick out the best in entertainment in a year where real life played such a prominent role in the lives of Joplin residents.
But it's because of that real-life tragedy that made us cherish the entertainment even more.
Epic new event: Joplin Running of the Bulls
The tornado didn't stop residents' drives to push new festivals, features and other fetes, from Oktoberfest to a Glee-style sing-off. But our favorite was a great twist on a Spanish tradition. A group re-enacted Pamplona's Running of the Bulls, using members of a roller derby team as the bulls. More than 100 ran in the fundraiser for St. Mary's Elementary School. Can't wait to see how big this gets in 2012.
Epic breaking big for a local band: LiveWire
This is a good year for the tater-fed band from the Joplin area. Videos for their songs "Tater Fed" and "Miracle of the Human Spirit" are in rotation on CMT. The band has been featured in Billboard magazine, signed with Way Out West in Nashville and were featured in segments on the "Breaking Out" show on The Country Networks.
Epic tornado-related song: "Naked Trees," by Me Like Bees
It's almost unfair to pick a best tornado song — so many artists have poured their heart and soul into music to help Joplin residents deal with the tornado.
Winning post-tornado celebrity visit: Carlos Mencia
Joplin has received a lot of attention from big names, as big as Katy Perry, Barry Manilow and members of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Epic Moment: JHS lip dub video
But for us, we were suckers for a lip dub video on YouTube.
Winning online app: Spotify
Music's large role in our lives is a big reason we love Spotify so much in the newsroom. It makes sharing music between friends so much easier. But Spotify's service goes way beyond letting the world know how great that new "Foster the People" album is.
Epic tribute to longevity: 25th anniversary of the Kitchen Pass
Back when the worst weather-related thing on our minds was snowmageddon, one of Joplin's longest-running nightspots celebrated a milestone.
Epic moment in history captured by locals: Joplin High School students witnessing history in Washington D.C.
Talk about being in the right place at the right time. As the Constitution Team celebrated a well-earned trip to nationals in Washington D.C., its trip coincided with the announcement of Osama bin Laden's death, and the crazy, street-filling celebration.
Joe's favorite album of 2011: "The Experiment," Art vs. Science
Ever since its February release, I've listened to "The Experiment" countless times. (I guess I could check my iTunes play count. Meh.) Every song on this album is strong.
Scott's favorite book of 2011: "Ready Player One," Ernest Cline
I enjoyed a number of new books in 2011. I welcomed the look back at Jack Reacher's early days in Lee Child's "The Affair"; got wrapped up in the latest Harry Bosch outing in Michael Connelly's "The Drop"; marveled at Stephen King's ability to sustain a story for nearly 900 pages in "11/22/63"; and cheered on the human resistance in Daniel Wilson's "Robopocalypse."
Miracle workers: Story about Santa's sanity featured for first time at Joplin Little Theatre
There's a reason Richard Copeland does such a convincing acting job as the judge in "Miracle on 34th Street": He's an associate circuit judge in Missouri's Judicial Circuit 29 for Jasper County.
Vocal quartet to sing medieval, current carols
Christmas songs aren't just Christmas songs, say members of New York Polyphony. As they are repeated and re-created, they become carols imbued with history and meaning.
Unique Christmas story features familiar situations
New Christmas stories don't come along very often. When Mark Sponaugle discovered a Christmas play he had never seen, he was instantly drawn to it.
Grand Funk Railroad to roll into Downstream
A blues rock band of the '70s responsible for a score of recognizable, remade hits will appear at Downstream Casino.
Holiday concerts featured at MSSU
Musicians and vocalists from Missouri Southern State University will perform three holiday concerts next week. All of the concerts are free and open to the public.
Joe Hadsall: Saints' success depends on me keeping mouth shut
The most intensely enforced item on my list of nevers, however: I never talk trash about teams with an upcoming game against the New Orleans Saints.
Dave Woods: Vegas a great destination for quick vacation
I love to get out of town for a few days, often with little notice. Expiring vacations days loomed on my calendar, and I needed some Dave time. Nothing fancy, just something cheap.
Benji Tunnell: 'Catching Fire' burns better than first movie
I'll be the first to admit I wasn't the biggest fan of the first "Hunger Games" movie. While it was capably executed, well-acted and certainly exciting, the entire premise of child-on-child violence left me feeling uneasy.
Jeremiah Tucker: Vacationing vegan Grimes has great advice for holidays
I thought of Thanksgiving last week, actually, when the mostly Internet-famous pop star and Earth-friendly vegan Grimes stirred-up a maelstrom of unholy terror by posting a photo of herself eating the new flavor of Ben & Jerry's ice cream "Scotchy Scotch Scotch" along with the comment "1 day hiatus from veganism is being had starting NOW."
Benji Tunnell: Journal reveals movie columnist's pain, angst
People often approach me to ask about what it is like living the glamorous life of a movie reviewer. After calling off the three burly men I employ to keep back the legion of adoring female readers, I set down my glass of champagne, push back my plate of caviar, and invite them to sit while I explain to them that it is not all fabulous movie premieres and hobnobbing with celebrities.
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