By Kathleen Swift • Photo by Patrick Tuttle

“This is an amazing time to celebrate our heritage,” said Patrick Tuttle, co-chair of the Joplin Celebration Commission. “Over the next six years, we will be celebrating four major events: the bi-centennial anniversary of Missouri in 2021, the 150th anniversary of Joplin’s founding as a community in the fall of 2022 and into 2023, and in 2026, America’s 250-year celebration and the 100-year anniversary of Route 66, which will be a regional event celebrated with Northeast Oklahoma and Southeast Kansas.”

The Joplin Celebrations commissioners are: Chris Wiseman, Paula Callihan, Jill Sullivan, Dr. Chad Stebbins, Dr. Kerry Sachetta, Abbey Surbrugg, Emily Frankoski, Wally Bloss, Christina Matekel-Gibson, Lori Haun, Paula Baker, Susan Adams, Ann Leach, Dr. Tracy Godfrey, Councilwoman Diane Reid Adams, Barbara Hogelin and Betty Smith. The commission is charged with encouraging, managing and endorsing the activities that will engage the community in the celebrations.

Although only in the beginning stages of planning, the commission is currently selling iris-shaped cookie cutters as a fundraiser to support the coming activities.

“The iris was selected as the official flower of Joplin in 1938 at the request of the Joplin Garden club and endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club, the Kiwanis Club, the American Legion and several other civic organizations of that time,” said Tuttle.

According to local history, “The fact that the Garden Club had planted 30,000 iris rhizomes in beds along the main roadways leading into Joplin was instrumental in having it recognized as the city flower. The perennial plant’s wide variety of colors and its long-blooming season made it especially attractive. It was a hardy flower that flourished in the climate and soil of the region. It was unaffected by drought, freezing weather, grasshoppers or other insects. Once planted, it would continue to grow and thrive. Rhizomes may be divided every few years, making additional plantings possible.

“Mertie Dunkle, president of the Joplin Garden Club, referred to the iris as the Ozark orchid, saying it multiplies rapidly, can withstand drought and needed no pruning or spraying. She concluded, ‘If residents of the district unite in growing iris, we will add another attractive feature to the beauties of the Ozark region.’”

Tuttle said, “In honor of the upcoming 150th birthday of the city of Joplin, a commemorative cookie cutter has been created. The design is a purple iris, the official flower of Joplin, and the cookie cutter includes a card detailing the history of the iris in Joplin. Proceeds from the sale of the cookie cutter will help fund Joplin’s 150th birthday celebration.”

Cookie cutters may be purchased in the Visit Joplin MO office of City Hall for $10 each. Mail orders are available for $15 each (includes shipping). Checks only are accepted and should be made payable to City of Joplin. The mailing address is Visit Joplin MO, 602 S. Main, Joplin, MO 64801.

In bringing back the tradition of the iris as Joplin begins planning for its 150th birthday, last year, “400 iris rhizomes were donated and planted at schools, parks and hospitals,” said Tuttle. “More iris will be planted this year, too. Residents are encouraged to plant irises in anticipation of Joplin’s 150th celebrations. There will be an iris gardens tour in the spring of 2023.

“We hope Joplin and area residents will participate in these events that recall the significance of our past. Everyone is welcome; please join us!”