Story written by Lindsay Alfermann.
COLUMBIA – Whether trying to save money or simply searching for new leisure opportunities, residents of Columbia and surrounding areas don’t have to go far.
Some activities may be impractical due to cost, but local alternatives are available. One company that actively works to provide free entertainment in Columbia is Shelter Insurance.
“We aim to be partner citizens within the community and enjoy giving back as much as possible,” said Paul LaRose, vice president of Human Resources at Shelter Insurance.
For the 39th year in a row, the company is hosting its free outdoor summer concert series at Shelter Gardens, located on West Broadway in Columbia.
“Every Sunday until July 26 (with the exception of July 5), we provide live music from various entertainment groups,” LaRose said. “We are happy to see people of all age groups, ranging from young families to older couples, out here enjoying our gardens as well as each other.”
Columbia residents Kevin and Karen O’Connor said they attend the concert series weekly with their young daughter.
“We discovered the series late last summer,” Karen O’Connor said. “We like coming each week because the Shelter Gardens are a nice, family-friendly place.”
Another factor influencing their turnout is the free admission.
“I was surprised that all of these talented groups were playing a free event,” Kevin O’Connor said. “It makes the decision a lot easier and realistic for us, knowing that we don’t have to buy tickets.”
In comparison, Helmut and Helga Haibach have been attending the Shelter Gardens series for over 10 years.
“We love the diverse atmosphere that comes along with the open attendance,” Helga Haibach said. “This way, people can afford to bring their whole families along as well as their pets.”
Columbia is also home to several other reasonably priced music events.
“I’ve heard of many people going to the SummerFest on Ninth Street concert series outside The Blue Note,” Karen O’Connor said. “Those shows are usually on Thursday nights, some are free and others aren’t.”
The Blue Note, Rose Music Hall and The Bridge are the most common music venues in town, all hosting a variety of shows and events, including karaoke and theme nights.
“Tickets to larger-named concerts at the venues range anywhere from $15-25,” student sales representative Haley McCabe said.
Students are presented with additional options to save money when buying tickets through the MSA/GPC Student Box Office.
“(The box office) is located on the main level of the Student Center,” McCabe said. “By purchasing tickets through us, students do not have to pay shipping and handling fees that are required when receiving physical tickets in the mail.”
McCabe also noted that charging ticket purchases to a credit card is inconvenient to some students, so they may elect to pay with their student accounts instead. This luxury is possible through the box office only.
Ticket purchases through the student box office are not limited to concerts.
“Sometimes groups organize day trips to nearby attractions such as Six Flags, Osage Beach Mall and Forest Park. The prices vary with each event, but are usually very affordable,” McCabe said. “There are also shuttles that provide transportation to see screenings of current movies for around $4.”
Children and teenagers also have access to activities within the community, including programs such as art projects hosted by the Daniel Boone Regional Library. A list of upcoming events can be found on www.dbrl.org.