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Festus, Missouri, USA

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Before Missouri was even recognised as a US territory, in the days when the Louisiana Purchase was the fledgling US government's newest playground (1803), Charlie Conners ambled across the Mississippi River and built a log cabin a bit south of the trading settlement of St Louis. You might think this would lead to the town that came to encompass the area being called 'Conners', but you would be wrong.

Festus, Missouri, is a small town in Jefferson County, just like any of thousands of small towns scattered about the US, almost wholly unremarkable. It lies about 30 miles south of St Louis at the intersections of Interstate 55 and US 61/671. The city of Festus is named after Porcius Festus, a Roman procurator who presided over the preliminary trial of the Apostle Paul as told in the Book of Acts.

And the People Shall Be Governed Thus

When incorporated in 1887 Festus adopted a government consisting of a mayor and a board of Aldermen. The current government structure consisting of a mayor, a city council and a city administrator, was adopted in 1976. The City Council is the legislative branch and meetings of the Council are presided over by the Mayor. The City Administrator is responsible for implementing the policies of the Council as well as overseeing day-to-day operations of the city.

The city maintains its own police department and fire protection, water and sewer systems, street maintenance, city parks and library instead of relying on the county or the state to provide these services. The Festus Municipal Court is a division of the Circuit Court of Jefferson County, and hears cases involving municipal infractions.

Nuts and Bolts

The city maintains its own airport, the Festus Memorial Airport, a small municipal airfield with a reputation for a friendly and helpful local staff. The nearest major commercial airport is Lambert Field in St Louis. Festus is also home to Jefferson County's only radio station, KJFF 1400, an AM talk station, but which is also within easy range of the major St Louis metropolitan stations.

The city's largest employer is the Jefferson Memorial Hospital located a few miles east in Crystal City, followed by Wal Mart, a distant second. Most residents work in the St Louis metro area. The Festus School District has an elementary school (kindergarten to third grades), an intermediate school (fourth to sixth grades), a middle school (seventh and eighth grades) and a high school (ninth to twelfth grades).

Things to Do, People to See

Festus has several local parks, two golf courses, a bike trail and a country club. There is also a theatre that hosts new film releases, but the bulk of entertainment to be had will be found up the road in towns closer to the metropolitan hub of St Louis. The neighbouring town of Pevely (less than ten miles north on the I-55) is home to the I-55 Raceway2 and the largest flea market in the St Louis area, open year-round.

The hungry in Festus can choose from the standard complement of McDonald's-type fast-food restaurants; there is also the requisite Waffle House3. For more casual, family-style dining Festus offers a Bob Evans or Ruby Tuesday, along with a smattering of independently owned restaurants for local flavour.

Favourite Sons

The band Bottle Rockets hail from Festus, once referred to as 'the best bar band in America' by a reviewer recalling the good-time, party-like atmosphere of the group's live shows. The band's founder described their second album, The Brooklyn Side (1994) as 'a day in the life of Festus, Missouri'. Their style is alternatively classified garage rock, alternative country, country rock or even rural American rock; their music touches on aspects of small-town life with songs such as 'Trailer Mama', 'Sunday Sports' and 'Dead Dog Memories'.


The city of Festus covers approximately 9.2 square kilometres (about 4.8 square miles). The population hovers around the 10,000 mark, largely between ages 25 and 45. Festus is a great community for small families.

Climate-wise, Festus is a pretty average midwestern city. January is the coldest month, average temperatures can range from -9° to 4.6°C (16° to 40°F), and is the time you're most likely to see snow. July, by contrast, is the hottest, with temps ranging between 18° and 32°C (mid 60s to above 90°F). March to May is the rainiest season with the most accumulation, about five inches, in April.

1From Festus, US 61 splits from US 67 and follows I-55 due south. US 67 veers off to the southwest, heading for Little Rock, Arkansas.2Co-owned by NASCAR driver Kenny Schrader, who makes appearances when his schedule allows.3A staple of small southern towns.

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