From Checkpoint Charlie to Smalltown, USA

What does Fulton, Missouri have in common with the city of Berlin?

Article by Bill Clevlen

The quaint mid-Missouri town of Fulton sits just a few miles off of Interstate 70, patiently waiting for travelers to make a point of discovering its charm and hospitality. While Callaway County may be best known nationally for the National Winston Churchill Museum, many of its great qualities have largely flown under the radar.  

“It checked off all the boxes for us,” says Michelle Roberts-Bauer. She is President of Associated Builders and Contractors – Heart of America chapter. Her organization encourages students to enter the construction field, and part of those efforts include an annual competition. “Fulton was a perfectly central location, and we were able to bring in students from all across the state for our event.  Many of the attendees were really excited to see a piece of the Berlin Wall up close. Plus, it’s such a charming place.”

This piece of the Berlin Wall is permanently on display at Westminster College in Fulton, artfully tying together the state of Missouri and its German heritage. The competition was held at 54 Country, a local dance hall/concert venue. 

HISTORIC MEETS AND EATS

Downtown Fulton is home to art galleries and specialty shops. Restaurants like Beks or Brooklyn Pizza have become local favorites for good reason. In fact, it’s worth scheduling your STL/KC road trips to pass by Fulton during lunch or dinner time. If not a meal, a chocolate shake at Sault’s Soda Fountain is worth pulling off the highway. 

The town is welcoming and affordable – two traits that attracted nationally known businesses to headquarter in Fulton. ETSY supplier Creating Unkamen and greeting card company 1Canoe2 are both located along Court Street.  

The Brick District features 57 buildings on the National Historic Register, adding to the town’s quaint and old-school personality. There are event space options abound in this quaint little town, a surprising feat given the size.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION…

Fulton is only 90 minutes west of St. Louis, two hours east of Kansas City and just over three hours north of Branson.  It takes under 30 minutes to get there from both Jefferson City and Columbia. 

One of my favorite local venues is the Auto World Museum, visible from the highway and located in a building that doesn’t quite do it justice from the outside.  Once inside, a very cool collection of classic cars that was once owned by William Backer is displayed. For some context, Mr. Backer started the Backer Potato Chip Company, a regional favorite in central Missouri. The event space can hold about 200 guests and includes a stage. The setting is a lot of fun, surrounded by vintage autos like a 1917 Scripps Booth Roadster or a yellow 1955 Studebaker Speedster. There’s also a really neat dry bar, designed like an old-time diner, that can be used for drinks or catering purposes.  

The area also has two wineries that provide unique water views. Serenity Valley Winery is part of a 60-acre property that includes a 5-acre lake. A 40×80 climate-controlled tent with tables and chairs can hold roughly 480 guests. Special options include specially designed wine bottles. Canterbury Hill Winery is another destination which includes a delightful restaurant, tasting room, and banquet facility.  The property overlooks the Missouri River.

SO MANY MORE EVENT OPTIONS

Two distinguished universities call Fulton home. Westminster, the liberal arts college founded in 1851 offers facility rentals with the greatest availability in the summer months. Space is limited during the academic calendar because school groups have first priority. William Woods University, known for some of its more unique undergraduate programs, also offers rental space. High tech meeting facilities include the Randall B. Cutlip Auditorium which seats 1,300 people.  A mix of smaller capacity auditoriums, a rec room, and various classrooms are also available.

During my last stop in Fulton, I had the pleasure of dining at Beks, a favorite of locals. While enjoying bacon-wrapped jalapeños and a tasty roasted chicken dish, I couldn’t help but take note of the restaurant’s massive size. It would be a perfect spot for an evening reception or welcome dinner. They also offer a special event menu that can be used to cater an event elsewhere.  

One unique setting for a smaller group could be Central Missouri Meat & Sausage –a craft butcher shop and retail market.  Not only is there a restaurant, but they also have an upper level “VIP” room that can seat 40. They are known for serving Callaway County beef and pork, certified to be free of antibiotics and artificial hormones. An added bonus could include a group brat tasting experience.

If you’re seeking more of a retreat, Cedar Creek Resort offers a beautiful setting for corporate meetings or conferences. The property includes a spacious 3,000 square foot deck. A variety of packages are available that can include meals, and A/V setup.   

There are two new event spaces in town to consider:  The Fulton Event Center and Brick District Playhouse.  The Fulton Event Center is a former car dealership that now offers 8,000 square-feet of space and as you might imagine, a very large parking lot. 

The Brick District Playhouse is one of the few remaining movie houses in mid-Missouri.  The community has been raising restoration funds and implementing improvements like the addition of a café.  The Playhouse Bistro offers a small menu of fresh food and specialty coffee, with a small gathering space of tables and chairs. Once inside the actual theater, the space can be used in a variety of settings: tables and chairs; theater-style chairs; or standing room only. The stage itself could be used in a variety of ways, but certainly for a performance, speaking engagement or presentation.  

“It was once known as the ‘gem of Fulton’ and it will be again.” says Debbie LaRue who serves on the Brick District Playhouse Board.  In addition to having great new venues, Ms. LaRue notes that Fulton’s best feature is the community itself.  “People in Fulton are welcoming, friendly and genuinely glad to visit with each other.  We like hearing what brings visitors to our town.  We like learning about them and doing what we can to ensure they have a good experience while they are here.” MM&E

Bill Clevlen is a contributing writer from St. Louis

About the author

Joe Clote

Joseph W. Clote is owner of Publishing Concepts, LLC a communications and marketing firm based in Saint Louis, Missouri. Mr. Clote is Group Publisher of MeetMed™ and Missouri Meetings & Events™ (MM&E) magazine, a quarterly publication read by thousands of meeting and event professionals, and producer of the St. Louis and Kansas City trade shows under the MM&E name. Mr. Clote has extensive sales and marketing expertise in the travel, tourism, fine art, insurance, and software development industries.