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Community Event Coordinator, Urban Districts Alliance
Sarah Hough is as much small town as she is urban. She grew up in the small town of Valley Springs, Arkansas, and she and her husband, Lincoln, have a farm in Fair Grove, yet she also works as the Community Event Coordinator for the Urban Districts Alliance in downtown Springfield. To Hough, however, there are more similarities than differences. “Downtown is kind of a community within a community,” she explains. Hough went to Missouri State and enjoys serving on a foundation for her hometown (the Valley Springs Foundation) as well as on the board for Springfield’s Downtown YMCA.
Any of the community events you can think of enjoying downtown, Hough is behind. From Artsfest and Cider Days to Taste of Springfield, it’s Hough who is doing all of the planning ahead of time to make these events a success. “When I talk to people and tell them what I do, I always get the same response, ‘Oh my gosh, your job must be so fun.’ And it is, once you get to the event,” Hough says.
But this magic doesn’t happen overnight. “There’s a lot of legwork and prep work leading up to it,” Hough says. But it pays off. “When we have an event and we see hundreds of people posting on Facebook checking in and talking about what they love about the event, meeting friends and family there, that makes it all worth it,” Hough says. —J.H.
417 Magazine: What projects do you have on the horizon at your job that you’re excited about?
Sarah Hough: We are in the thick of planning Artsfest right now, and it’s one of the most exciting times in our office. We always try to think of ways to make the festival feel fresh, and we have some great things up our sleeve for this year (come and see May 4 & 5)!
417 : How did you end up at your current job/profession?
S.H.: I interned with the Urban Districts Alliance my senior year of college, where I got to help plan a new event they were starting. My Type A personality loved the challenge of organizing a large-scale event. A few years after my internship, an opening for full-time event coordinator came open and I jumped at the chance to join UDA.
417: Where do you find passion to do what you do?
S.H.: I love being able to help plan events where people have fun celebrating the arts, good food, and our community. The events I coordinate also benefit two local non-profits–the Urban Districts Alliance & the Springfield Regional Arts Council. I see first hand how hard both of those non-profits work every day to make sure downtown is growing and the arts are thriving, and supporting them financially is something I’m proud to have a hand in.
417: Are you single/married, and do you have any kids?
S.H.: My husband, Lincoln, and I were married in 2009. Lincoln is a state representative and also raises beef cattle. Ironically enough, we met each other through the Student Government Association. We’ve been together and involved in local politics since then.
417: What are your hobbies (when you’re not working)?
S.H.: Lincoln and I love to spend time “at the farm” when we’re not working. Being outside in the country is a great break from office work. I also enjoy a love/hate relationship with running.
417: Are you involved in any charitable organizations?
S.H.: I serve as the president of the Valley Springs Foundation–a charitable Foundation that benefits the school and community where I was raised. I am lucky to be a part of the group who founded the organization, and to have a chance to give back to the community that shaped me. I also serve on the Board of the Downtown YMCA, where I get to support the great things the Downtown YMCA does–like Local Sprouts, the Healthy Living Alliance and the child care programs. The Y is SO much more than a gym!
417: Are you a member of any professional organizations?
S.H.: I enjoy representing UDA as a member of the Network, the Springfield Chamber’s Young Professional organization.
417: How would you define the secret to success?
S.H.: I think the secret to success lies in building relationships. When I think about the people I admire most in the professional world, it’s those who have spent their careers building genuine relationships with their colleagues. When you work together with people, you can accomplish so much more, and the bonus is that you come away with some pretty great friends, too!
417: What’s your favorite thing about your career?
S.H.: I love that there is never a dull moment in event planning. It forces me to stay on my toes and always have a “Plan B.” One year at Artsfest, we discovered a gas line leak and had to dig up the street overnight to fix it. It was touch-and-go, but it was taken care of before the festival opened at 10 a.m. Obviously, it wasn’t ideal, but it makes a great story!
417: What’s your favorite thing about working in 417-land?
S.H.: I get to work in the best part of 417-land–downtown Springfield! Working downtown is great, because it’s a tight-knit community of business owners, organizations and people who truly care about and support the local economy.
417: If you could go back and give the high school version of yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
S.H.: Have a little more fun.
417: What was your “dream job” at age 5?
S.H.: I come from a family of educators, so being a teacher was my dream job at age 5.
417: List three traits that define a successful career:
S.H.: Integrity, hard-work, purpose
417: Why are you a 20 under 30?
S.H.: I think I’m a 20 under 30 because I’ve spent my years in the professional world working hard and making connections in the community.
417: What completed project are you most proud of?
S.H.: I started my job in 2008 at the height of the recession. I’m proud that even through those uncertain times, we were able to grow many of our events and increase revenue for our non-profit partners. It really shows that people do value community events.
Fill in the following blanks with five words or less:
417:_____ makes life worth living.
417: A day at work wouldn’t be complete without
S.H.: lunch at a Downtown restaurant.
417: Ten years from now, I hope I’m _____
S.H.: still 29.
417: If I won the lottery tomorrow, I would _____
S.H.: give my co-workers a bonus.
417: The best part about being a 20 under 30 is _____
S.H.: being old enough to accomplish something, but still being considered young.