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It's almost time for the Ozzie Awards — a celebration of creativity in the Ozarks

Springfield Regional Arts Council

This year's Ozzie Awards will be presented in person for the first time since COVID-19 began affecting the Ozarks.

Leslie Forrester, executive director of Springfield Regional Arts Council, visited “Arts News” to talk about something that is close to the hearts of everyone here at Ozarks Public Broadcasting, because one of our own will be honored at the event: the 37th Ozzie Awards, taking place 5:30 p.m. Saturday, October 22 at Springfield-Branson National Airport.

Because of COVID concerns, this is the first time in two years that the Ozzies will be presented live and in person, Forrester said. “So there are a lot of special things about the Ozzies, in addition to our incredible winners, but just starting to feel a little more normal again. It's really exciting.”

Forrester described the Ozzie Awards as “a celebration of the arts, and the people who have continued or have been a huge part of creating the arts and culture community that we know and love today — so people that have given tons of volunteer time, their treasure, their talent, to create a vibrant (arts) community in Springfield. And so, every year we get together and celebrate five or six people or organizations who have done just that. The celebration itself is basically a dinner and a show for the price of your ticket you get a whole experience of delicious food — we have As You Like It Catering coming this year to provide dinner."

Forrester added, "And then for each winner, we'll talk with each person to get to know them a little bit better. And then there's a performance happening in their honor, so six different performers. And having it out in the airport makes for a really unique space. It's not your typical fundraising gala in that way. Right there in the airport terminal, you can stroll the gallery spaces because there is a lot of art out there as well."

This year, the Individual Ozzie Awards go to Dr. Terry Chase and Ruth Barnes; the Leadership Award to Tom Everett; Grupo Latinoamericano wins the Organizational Award; Ashley Paige Romines receives the Phoenix Award for her work with Springfield Ballet.

KSMU producer to receive Ozzie award

And last but not least, KSMU’s Mike Smith receives the Regional Impact Ozzie because of the 40-some years he has hosted — and received national recognition for — a weekly bluegrass and acoustic music program on KSMU, “Seldom Heard Music.”

Forrester called Smith “a prime example of why we need to do the Ozzie Awards."

Mike Smith has been a KSMU producer and host of "Seldom Heard Music" for more than four decades.

She added, "because people have really dedicated an incredible amount of time and energy to things like bluegrass music that deserve to be celebrated and heard and broadcast. Mike's work with the station and with promoting bluegrass has had just an incredible impact.”

And, she added, there’s “really kind of a fun connection point” due to the fact that Smith's KSMU program (pre-recorded, of course!) will air at the same time the Ozzie Awards ceremony takes place on October 22. The Chapmans bluegrass band will come to the awards show to perform in Smith's honor, and in fact will end the show.

Among the other performers that night: dancers from Springfield Ballet; Sean Spyres from Ozarks Lyric Opera; Grupo Latinoamericano; a string quartet from the Springfield Symphony; and local poet Karen Craigo will perform a piece specifically for one of the Ozzie winners.

Tickets to the Ozzie Awards are $100 per person, with proceeds benefitting the Springfield Regional Arts Council “so we can continue the work we're doing to advocate, educate and collaborate for the arts in a variety of ways," Forrester said. "So, you know, it's both a celebration of these incredible winners and also to support the Arts Council. So 100 bucks will get you dinner and a show and a reception and you'll you're going to leave happy!”

The evening starts with hors d’oeuvres at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner at 6:30 p.m. and the award presentations and performances around 7:30 p.m. Saturday, October 22. Tickets are available at

Randy Stewart joined the full-time KSMU staff in June 1978 after working part-time as a student announcer/producer for two years. His job has evolved from Music Director in the early days to encompassing production of a wide range of arts-related programming and features for KSMU, including the online and Friday morning Arts News. Stewart assists volunteer producers John Darkhorse (Route 66 Blues Express), Lee Worman (The Gold Ring), and Emily Higgins (The Mulberry Tree) with the production of their programs. He's also become the de facto "Voice of KSMU" in recent years due to the many hours per day he’s heard doing local station breaks. Stewart’s record of service on behalf of the Springfield arts community earned him the Springfield Regional Arts Council's Ozzie Award in 2006.