Route 66 got its start here, along with Springfield-style cashew chicken and Bass Pro Shops, but that’s just a peek into what our city has to offer. Here’s a snapshot of what makes the Queen City so royally great.
Brad Pitt is from here. Of course we had to list this factoid. Technically, he was born in Oklahoma, but he grew up here, and he attended Kickapoo High School. His family still lives in Springfield, and his brother is the founder of Care To Learn, which aims to help children in poverty so they can focus and thrive in school.
Speaking of celebrities, John Goodman is a Missouri State University alumnus. His years with the school’s theater program had such a lasting impact, he helped fund the new John Goodman Amphitheatre in the Judith Enyeart Reynolds Arts Park on campus.
If you have a cassette tape, it was likely made at National Audio Company here in Springfield. This is the only producer of magnetic tape for cassettes in the United States, and one of just a handful of cassette manufacturers left in the country. Know who one of their biggest customers is? Disney!
We’re popular. There's a Springfield in 34 states, but did you know ours is the largest of them all?
O’Reilly Auto Parts got its start right here in Springfield, Missouri. The company started in 1957 when C.F. O’Reilly and his son, Chub, started an auto parts wholesaler and supplier. The company is still family run—it’s well into its third generation—and there are more than 5,000 retail locations around the U.S.
Did you know Springfield is considered the birthplace of Route 66? As a result, the Queen City is a popular destination for history buffs and classic car enthusiasts. Naturally, Springfield hosts the annual Birthplace of Route 66 Festival each August.
Here’s an odd fact for you. Springfield is just 50 miles away from the center of population for the contiguous United States. If you’re wondering what “the center of population” means, we’ll tell you. According to the Census Bureau, this center is where an imaginary, flat, weightless and rigid map of the United States would balance perfectly on a scale if everyone were of identical weight. This point represents the average location of where people in the United States live. Makes perfect sense, right?
Another wildly popular success that started here in Springfield is Springfield-style cashew chicken. You can thank David Leong for this oyster-sauce-covered favorite. Leong came up with the dish in 1963 when he ran a Chinese restaurant and wanted to create a dish that would appeal to the Midwestern palate.
Ready to hit the water? Springfield is within 30 minutes of three lakes and just 1 hour north of Table Rock Lake. The James River also runs south of town and is a popular spot to kayak.
If you’re a golf fan, you’ll appreciate this. When Tiger Woods decided to design his first public golf course, he teamed up with Johnny Morris (the owner and founder of Bass Pro Shops) to launch Payne’s Valley Golf Course outside Branson.
Bass Pro Shops got its start in Springfield and is still headquartered here today. The outdoor retailer started off in 1972 when Johnny Morris set up shop in the back of his parents’ liquor store. Now, there are more than 170 shops in the U.S. and Canada, but the original store is here in Springfield, Missouri.