By Ann Leach 

The 17th year of Third Thursdays celebrating Joplin and all it has to offer kicks off Thursday, March 21, thanks to the efforts of the Downtown Joplin Alliance (DJA) and its many volunteers and sponsors. 

“The event draws upward of 5,000 people per month with 100-150 vendors, dozens of downtown businesses participating, food trucks, outdoor dining, an artisan market and live music,” said Lori Haun, DJA executive director. “Third Thursday is Joplin’s signature event, bringing out all sorts of people, businesses, activities, performances and more.” 

Each month of the season has a theme with events to support that theme for the evening. The March theme is Go Green and subsequent themes are: 

April: Be a Hero 

May: Route 66 Fest 

June: You Belong 

July: Downtown Waterfest 

August: Dog Days of Summer 

September: Green and Gold 

October: Fall Festival 

“We are looking forward to celebrating again this year with sponsors like MSSU, Blue Buffalo and Missouri American Water,” Haun said. “We still have some sponsorships available, and sign-ups for vendors can be made on our website, Musicians are also invited to reach out if they are interested in playing at one or more of the events. And we always need volunteers.” 

The volunteers are key to the event’s success. “It takes at least a dozen volunteers, plus our staff of four women, to pull it off each time,” said Kristina Kosiorek, DJA operations assistant. “Volunteers help us with manning entrances and exits during vendor set-up, as well as helping us set up signage, picnic tables, stages and chairs and, of course, people to help us clean up trash and safely get attendees and vendors off the street when the event is over.” 

The Third Thursday phenomenon began as Art Walk (Art Walk continues on the First Thursday of each month) and served as a means to activate empty storefronts downtown. “It brought people and art to downtown and inside the buildings,” Haun said. “Those buildings gradually started to fill, and attendance started to grow. Within a few years, due to safety concerns for attendees, the City closed the street during the event. This opened up the possibility for a new phase of growth by adding outdoor activities to complement the indoor pop-up galleries.” 

By year 10, building vacancies in the festival area were below 10%. And around that time, with the reduction of available indoor spaces, its focus became more on using the outdoor area. 

Third Thursday planning continues year round, and DJA offers other events, too. “We host about 80 event days a year as an organization,” Kosiorek said. “Not to mention our