NEOSHO, Mo. —
Steve Roark is serious about bringing tourism to this part of the country.
The president of the Newton County Tourism Council couldn’t even resist pitching the region to news reporters on Wednesday as he described to them a new film promoting attractions within the county.
“Are you going to go visit some of these places now?” he asked reporters after his interview. “Because if you’re not, I need to reshoot this whole thing because I didn’t do it right.”
The new 15-minute promotional film for attractions in Newton and Jasper counties was unveiled Wednesday at a meeting of the tourism council. The meeting, attended by community leaders and those in the local tourism industry, also served as a “think tank” to generate ways to broaden interest in the region.
The film provides a brief highlight of many of the 39 murals in Newton and Jasper counties. It also uses the murals to give a glimpse of attractions such as George Washington Carver National Monument in Diamond, the Neosho National Fish Hatchery, the Precious Moments attraction in Carthage, and Joplin’s Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center.
“The common thread that runs through this is murals,” Roark said. “We have that thread; we know how to do murals.”
Since the tourism council launched in 2005, one of its objectives has been to promote the murals on display across Southwest Missouri. Some of the area’s most notable murals include Thomas Hart Benton’s “Joplin at the Turn of the Century” and his grandson Anthony Benton Gude’s “Joplin 66,” both located at Joplin City Hall.
“That’s why we love murals,” Roark said. “They’re not just paintings; they’re little snippets of our history, our rich history.”
The film, which Roark said was kept to 15 minutes to be YouTube-friendly, was produced by Wannenmacher Advertising Co., of Springfield, and underwritten by Community Bank and Trust, of Neosho. Roark said the council’s ultimate goal with the film is to bring tourists not just to Newton and Jasper counties, but to the general region covering Southwest Missouri, Southeast Kansas and Northeast Oklahoma.
“We want to try to begin to erase those state lines as to tourism,” he said. “When it comes to tourism, we’re on the same team.”
Mike Seibert, a member of the Joplin City Council, said after viewing the film that the tourism council’s next steps should be to distribute the film to local venues that are hosts to visitors and to venues that are responsible for bringing visitors through the area.
“You obviously have got the tool,” he said. “This is a tremendous tool.”
Rick Radford, chief financial officer and business analyst for the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, said the film was “very well done.” He added that he would like to see more of an emphasis on the people of the region.
“The historical value of people will bring people here, not the towns,” he said. “Nobody’s going to care about Joplin or Neosho or Granby as a town, but they will care about the murals and the sweat equity behind them.”
THE VIDEO promoting tourism in Newton and Jasper counties is to be embedded soon on the Newton County Tourism Council’s website, newtoncountymotourism.org.