Annual events in Southeast Missouri

Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Rachel Beise, left, and Ashley Curnell pick out their bowls during the 2010 Empty Bowls Project Banquet at the Salvation Army in Cape Girardeau. Proceeds from the event benefit the Salvation Army's community meals. (Kristin Eberts)

There's almost always something going on around Southeast Missouri. Some events celebrate a holiday, while others honor a community's heritage. Whether you want to look for deals on a miles-long yard sale or gorge on corn dogs and funnel cakes at a fair, you'll find what you're looking for in Southeast Missouri.


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Dinner: Each year Southeast Missouri State University brings a nationally known speaker to Cape Girardeau for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Dinner. Douglas Wilder, the nation's first African-American governor, will deliver the keynote address at the 2012 dinner on Jan. 18.

*Look for more Martin Luther King Jr. Day community activities on

Dancers perform during " 11:11," choreographed by Philip Edgecombe, during Act I of Southeast Missouri State's Spring into Dance show, which will be held at the River Campus' Bedell Performance hall April 14-17. (Kristin Eberts)


Storytelling Festival: The first Cape Girardeau Storytelling Festival in 2008 was a resounding success and has only gotten better with time. Organizers bring in storytellers from around the country to captivate the crowds that fill tents set up around downtown. Check out the latest crop of tellers April 13-15, 2012.

Mississippi River Valley Scenic Drive: Take the back roads and explore the rural communities and countryside of Southeast Missouri. Good food, folk music, crafts, good food, camping, living history, museum tours, good food and the beauty of the Missouri countryside are all part of this self-conducted driving tour held the last weekend in April.


Downtown Historic Home and Garden Tour: Old Town Cape recruits downtown homeowners to open their doors to visitors and show off some of the oldest homes in Cape Girardeau. The tour aims to be walkable for most people, and homeowners are on-hand to answer questions and point out special features. Usually held the first weekend in May, check for details.

100-Mile Yard Sale: Every year on Memorial Day weekend, Highway 25 from Jackson to Kennett, Mo., becomes one long yard sale. Vendors hawk everything imaginable. Grab some friends and start digging for deals.

Perryville Mayfest: Welcome the arrival of spring with Perryville's Mayfest celebration, held the second weekend in May. Held in the town square, the festival includes live music, a craft fair, parade, carnival and bed races -- yes, bed races -- among many other activities.

Tunes at Twilight (File photo)


Scott City Summerfest: The traditional midsummer carnival, held the first weekend in June at Scott City Park, has been bringing locals together for food, entertainment and fun annually since 1977. A talent show and fireworks display cap off the three-day event.


Fourth of July: Many towns have a community fireworks display, but if you're looking for some extra fun, check out Oran's annual picnic or Cape Girardeau's weekend-long celebration.

Oran Picnic: Each year the Knights of Columbus serve up a family-style, home-cooked meal. Games for adults and children and musical entertainment are part of the festivities.

July Fourth Celebration (Cape Girardeau): Sponsored by the USA Veterans, the Fourth of July weekend features live music, "redneck games," fireworks and more at Arena Park.

New Hamburg Picnic: Head down to New Hamburg for some outdoor fun and delicious food. The annual picnic is held the third weekend in July at St. Lawrence Catholic Church and has games, dinner and other activities, highlighted by the turtle races.

Southeast Missourian Jr. Park and Rec Day: Let the kids go crazy at Park and Rec Day, held every July. The event features loads of activities for children of all ages.

Homecomers: Uptown Jackson is the place to be the last week of July. The annual festival, which will celebrate its 104th year in 2012, features live entertainment, a beauty pageant, carnival rides and all the fair food you can eat.

Leopold picnic: Thousands of people pack into the small Bollinger County community the last Saturday in July for the famous homestyle food. The fundraising picnic, which has been an annual event since 1890, is a true family affair for Leopold natives -- most families have worked the same booth for generations.


Sikeston Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo: Sikeston turns into a cow town the second week of August. With world-class cowboys and cowgirls competing in events like calf roping, barrel racing and bull riding, and A-list country stars (Big & Rich and Gretchen Wilson were among the 2011 performers), the rodeo is four nights of good ol' country entertainment. Visit for updates on the 2012 event.

German Days in Chaffee: The Chaffee Elks sponsor this festival the second weekend in August to celebrate the town's heritage. Chaffee's famous-in-Southeast-Missouri chicken, carnival rides and games are just some of the attractions.

Jaycees BBQ Fest: The Cape Girardeau Jaycees host the Kansas City Barbeque Society-sanctioned competition the last weekend in August at Arena Park. The event raises money for the local Toybox program and features a variety of barbecue goodness and live music.


Highway 61 Yard Sale: The weather and sales are usually hot for the Highway 61 Yard Sale, held Labor Day weekend. Hundreds of sales are scattered along the highway between Jackson and Bloomsdale, Mo., but the hot spots are often Fruitland and Perryville, Mo. Scott City also hosts a citywide yard sale Labor Day weekend.

Benton Neighbor Days: For decades, Labor Day weekend has marked a time to meet new friends and reunite with old ones for Benton residents and those with connections to the small town. The Scott County town celebrates with carnival rides, a parade and lots of other activities.

SEMO District Fair: This weeklong fair held the second week of September at Cape's Arena Park features agricultural exhibitions, a carnival, nightly entertainment and a wide variety of food. Don't miss out on the saltwater taffy!

East Perry County Fair: Held on the third Friday and Saturday after Labor Day, the East Perry County Fair, at the fairgrounds in Altenburg, is a two-day celebration with plenty of homestyle food, carnival rides and the fair's famous mule-jumping competition.

River Tales Classic Car Show: This car show is sure to rev your engine. The River City Rodders Car Club and Old Town Cape team up for the annual car show held the third Sunday in September, with music and hundreds of -- what else -- classic cars. The event raises money for various charities.

Cotton Carnival: Sikeston celebrates its cotton-picking heritage the last week in September with carnival rides, food and games at the rodeo grounds. The Cotton Carnival parade is one of the biggest around and is always a highlight.

Southeast Missouri State University's Homecoming Parade makes its way down Broadway in Cape Girardeau. (Kristin Eberts)


Jackson Band Festival: Uptown Jackson feels the beat on the first Tuesday in October when dozens of high school marching bands come to town for the Jackson Band Festival. It's a symphony of sights and sounds with a parade in the afternoon and field competition that evening.

Bollinger County Fair: Three days of food, contests, music, carnival rides, a car show, horse acts and more. Held the first weekend in October at Marble Hill's Magnolia Park.

Saxon Lutheran Memorial Fall Festival: Held on the second Saturday in October, the festival celebrates farm life in the 1800s at the original farmstead site of the Bergt family in Frohna, Mo. Crafts and a period fashion show are among the highlights.


Parade of Lights (Christmas parade): Old Town Cape celebrates the start of the Christmas season on the Sunday after Thanksgiving with a parade down Broadway and Main Street. Dozens of floats light up the parade route and Santa caps the whole thing off. The theme for the 2011 Parade of Lights is "A Picture Perfect Christmas."

The Cape Girardeau Roller Girls prepare for Friday's "Capetown Smackdown" at the A.C. Brase Arena Building in Cape Girardeau Thursday, November 4, 2010. (Laura Simon)


Southeast Missourian Christmas Tournament: The premiere high school basketball tournament in the area brings together 16 teams for four days of fast-paced action at the Show Me Center. The field includes traditional powerhouses and past state champions like Scott County Central, Notre Dame, Jackson and Charleston. The tournament kicks off Dec. 26.

Yearly events

The Cape Central Jungle cheers during a game against Jackson on Friday, Sept. 16, 2011, in Jackson. Central won 14-12. (Kristin Eberts)

Central vs. Jackson football game It's the biggest high school game around when the rivals meet on the football field. Check for schedules for all area sports teams.

Tunes at Twilight Tunes at Twilight, organized by Old Town Cape, features a different musician each Friday night from mid-May through June and again from mid-August through September. The hourlong concerts are held at the Common Pleas Courthouse gazebo. Bring chairs and refreshments for the outdoor shows. Spring concerts begin at 7 p.m. each week. The fall concerts begin at 6:30 p.m.

Empty Bowls Project Empty Bowls is a national not-for-profit organization that raises money for local food banks by selling a small meal and giving away a handmade bowl with every ticket to its soup dinner in the fall. There are opportunities throughout the year to paint bowls.

River Campus events Southeast Missouri State University's River Campus is home to the university's fine arts program. Students show off their musical, acting, dancing and artistic abilities at the campus' state-of-the-art facilities. In addition to student-produced shows, the River Campus brings in touring acts ranging from Broadway shows like "Young Frankenstein" (April 22, 2012) to dance troupes like the Moscow Ballet (April 27, 2012)

SEMO Homecoming It's not just about the football game, though that's a big part of it. Southeast Missouri State University throws itself a party every fall with a parade, campus activities and competitions leading up to Saturday's game. Don some red and black and cheer on the 2010 Ohio Valley Conference champion Redhawks.

Cape Girardeau Roller Girls The Cape Girardeau Roller Girls are the only women's flat-track roller derby league in Southeast Missouri. To find out when to catch them in action, visit, like them on Facebook at, or follow @cgrollergirls on Twitter.

Check for more details on times and dates.