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City of Springfield trying to make sure area is getting the most out of Bass Pro World Fishing Fair’s economic impact

Published: Mar. 31, 2022 at 6:41 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Bass Pro’s 50th anniversary World’s Fishing Fair is definitely a huge event with estimates that it could draw as many as 500,000 people plus provide $80 million in economic impact to the Springfield area.

And a group of volunteers is trying to make sure that economic impact is spread throughout the city.

As you look through any of the seven parking lots scattered all around town where visitors take shuttles to the fishing fair you’ll notice a lot of out-of-state license plates.

You’ll also notice that as fair goers get on the shuttle buses to head to Bass Pro, volunteers are handing out pamphlets to them as they board the bus.

“We’re giving out the Welcome to Springfield Word’s Fishing Fair information on the city,” said Randy Baker, one of the 15 volunteers that the city enlisted to spread the word.

Those pamphlets point out other places of interest to visit like Downtown Springfield, Battlefield Mall, Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield or the Commercial Street Historic District.

There’s also information on area parks and attractions including Lake Springfield Park, Rutledge-Wilson Farm Park, the Ozark Greenways Trail Network, Springfield Botanical Gardens, Jordan Valley Ice Park, the Springfield Conservation Nature Center and Dickerson Park Zoo.

There’s a page on dining and delivery that mentions Springfield’s “signature dish” cashew chicken and even a list of medical services in town.

“We really wanted to encourage them (visitors) to do more than just visit Bass Pro when they’re in our community,” said Cora Scott, Springfield’s Director of Public Information and Civic Engagement. “And I see us continuing to recruit more ambassadors in the future for other events and activities because it’s been so much fun. We’ve met so many people who love Springfield and like to share how great Springfield is.”

One of those people is Marlon Graves. A Springfield native and former stand-out football player at Central, Marlon moved to Florida for a couple of decades but returned to his hometown to help his mom through health problems. A minister and member of an international gospel group, Graves is not only a good son but volunteers for organizations like Good Dads, A Girl Like Me Network, homeless shelters and the Police Civilian Review Board.

And now Marlon’s working for free to promote the city.

Why?

“Volunteering is a ministry,” he said. “I believe when you wake up every morning God’s given you a purpose. Looking back in my life I was wondering if there was somebody who would be there for me and now I want to reverse that pain and help somebody in need. If I can be available, why not?”

In the case of handing out pamphlets to visitors at the fishing fair the purpose is to be a good positive first impression for people who may be experiencing Ozarks hospitality for the first time.

“I noticed that about 80 percent of the people I spoke with were from other states,” Graves said. “That just let’s you know what impact Bass Pro has on people.”

“I moved here in 1987 from Illinois,” Baker added. “And I really appreciate the area. Some of the locals sometimes really forget the advantages that we have here.”

Among the out-of-town visitors on Thursday were NASCAR driver Austin Dillon and owner Richard Childress, both from North Carolina. Dillon’s car is sponsored by Bass Pro and he entertained a crowd gathered just outside the front door of the store by doing burnouts in a replica race car.

Dillon said he and Childress were doing their part to contribute to the area’s economy.

“Oh yeah,” Dillon answered. “He’s already bought six chairs for his turkey blinds and got a couple of decoys. So we’ve already been shopping and been around town a little bit.”

Considering the first two days of the fishing fair have featured rain the first day and cold and spitting snow the second day Graves laughed when he recalled his favorite comment from a visitor riding a shuttle bus.

“I did hear this one I thought was hilarious,” he said. “They said, ‘Springfield has all these beautiful places but it doesn’t have sunlight.’”

Hopefully that will change with better weather forecast for the weekend.

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