SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Group events are making a comeback in Springfield and the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau expects it to bring millions of dollars to the city.
The CVB has more than 40 groups scheduled through the end of the year.
One of those is happening right now, the Cardigan Welsh Corgi Club of America Dog Show.
“I come every year and I have since I was a little girl,” Emily Barnhart who is competing in the Dog Show said. “I’ve been involved in the Cardigan world since I was 12 years old.”
Even though she’s no stranger to competing, Barnhart says this year’s event feels different.
“Definitely the fact that we have been so locked down,” Barnhart said. “So, it’s been nice to just be able to come to an event and be excited to do it. In 2020 our event was canceled, so it’s nice to be able to do it again.”
But not without a four-day road trip from Washington state with her dog King.
“We’re camping in an RV,” Barnhart said. “We love traveling across the country to these events.”
Gail Laberge helped organize the show she says between Springfield’s trials and competition -and herding near St. Louis, she has more than a thousand entries.
“That’s a huge entry for us,” Laberge said. “We’re not a big breed in numbers.”
Yet people from all around the country wanted to participate.
“People are amazed at the amount of money that when you have a dog event that brings into the local economy,” Laberge said. “People are staying in the hotels, shopping. They’re buying gas. They’re eating out.”
Tracy Kimberlin with the CVB says before the pandemic, meetings and conventions like the dog show accounted for 15% of overnight travel.
Sports was 5%, and leisure and business was 40% apiece.
“When business travel and meetings and conventions kick into full gear, if leisure travel holds up, we’re going to have a very good year,” Kimberlin said.
After losing at least $44 million from group event cancellations last year, the CVB predicts $26 million will go back into Springfield’s economy in 2021.
“Frankly, it’s getting better a lot quicker than what I expected,” Kimberlin said. “I did not expect that we would be in a position where we are bumping up against 2018 and 2019 numbers as far as total overnight travel is concerned, but that’s where we’re at, and I’m very happy about it.”
The event will be at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds through Saturday, June 5.