Best of 417 2017

See which food, activities, people and places made the cut.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this article was fact checked and accurate at press time, but 417 Magazine cannot guarantee its accuracy indefinitely.

(page 9 of 11)

Editor's Picks: People

Brett Johnston loves local music and devotes his time to boosting 417-land’s art scene.


Best Local Music Advocate: Brett Johnston

Few people have done as much to support the local music scene as Brett Johnston has. The marketing and development director for the Springfield Regional Arts Council has been bringing music to the people of 417-land since his Drury days, where Johnston helped organize Rocktoberfest. For three years, he hosted SGF Local Live with Brett Johnston, a radio show dedicated to local music that featured live, in-studio performances and interviews. Then, in 2014, he started hosting Sound Check, a monthly television show that similarly features local music and is available to Mediacom users in several Midwestern markets and online. Johnston also writes about music. He co-owned Tag Magazine, an entertainment and culture magazine, and writes our weekly music newsletter, Set List. And if all that weren’t enough, the music junkie has his own rap career. Catch him performing at Lindberg’s Tavern once a month or at local libraries where he spits kid-friendly verses for ears of all ages.


Best Serendipitous Love Story: Craig and Tamara von Foerster

There’s something about Harvest Restaurant that’s a little magical, and we’re not talking about the spectacular meal that awaits every diner. Instead, it’s how the owners, Craig and Tamara von Foerster, met. They were both living in California when Tamara visited the Post Ranch Inn with a friend and took a seat in the hotel’s restaurant, Sierra Mar, where Craig was the chef. She ordered the gumbo and was blown away. “It was just this lively, full of flavor dish,” she says. “And I’m like, ‘I have to have the recipe.’” Lucky for Tamara, her friend happened to know their waiter, who shared the request with Craig. He came out to the table and wrote it down on the back of an old menu, and they parted ways.

A few years later they met again, but neither remembered the other. A couple months after they started dating, they were at Tamara’s apartment discussing spicy food when Craig mentioned his gumbo. “I said, ‘Hang on a second,’ and I go back to the kitchen… and I pull out my recipe, and I’m like, ‘Is this your recipe?’” Tamara says. “He goes, ‘That was you?’” Naturally, they served the gumbo at their wedding.


Tamara and Craig von Foerster, photographed on location at their farm, share one of 417-land’s sweetest love stories.


Best Up & Coming Restaurateur: Joshua Widner

Some of 417-land’s tastiest cocktails have one man in common: Joshua Widner. After earning two degrees to pursue a career in the music industry, Widner landed back home in Springfield when his post-grad position fell through. He started working at MudLounge with his brother and business partner Rogan, who helped him get the job. “As soon as I was behind the bar, I absolutely fell in love with it,” Widner says. 

His degrees came in handy after all when he started writing plans for Scotch & Soda, which he opened with Andrew Heilman in October 2012. Now Widner’s portfolio includes Cherry Picker Package x Fare, Golden Girl Rum Club and the Scotch & Soda in Bentonville that opened this past November. “I’ve opened four restaurants in four years,” the 29-year-old says. “That’s pretty insane.” And he’s not done yet. “A quality draft house would be really cool in Springfield,” Widner says. “That’s always something I’ve wanted to do.” We’re hoping he makes it five-in-five.


Best Accidental Lady Power Squad: Kate Alsup, Jenn Fortner, Madison Hedlund and Michelle Houghton

As with all movements, The Bravery Board started with a handful of people wanting to make a difference. Kate Alsup, Madison Hedlund and Michelle Houghton began meeting at the end of 2015 to discuss how to help increase access to mental health care and inspire 417-landers to lead fulfilling lives. “What has been really neat is creating something I think we all wanted for ourselves,” Houghton says. 

The women organize monthly gatherings at Eurasia Coffee & Tea where they bring in an outside speaker to discuss issues such as compassion, goal setting and self-care. Last year, they averaged 30 to 40 audience members per gathering, most of whom are women, though that was never their intention. “We never say women, it’s just that we talk about the struggle of finding your voice,” Houghton says. “It happens that women really relate to that,” Hedlund chimes in.

Since beginning, the group has added a podcast to reach even more people, a newsletter called The Bravery Briefing and another organizer: Jenn Fortner, Houghton’s twin sister. “It doesn’t even resemble what we thought it would be,” Alsup says. “Maybe next year we’ll be doing things that we never would’ve imagined at this time.”


Best Rising Star: Karlee Metzger

We loved watching 417-land get some love on season 11 of The Voice, but we love the reason for all the attention more: Singer Karlee Metzger. The recent Fordland resident arrested our attention (not to mention the rest of America’s) with her powerful and soulful vocals on season 11 of The Voice. 

Metzger began performing as a 3-year-old, thanks to her grandparents’ encouragement. She honed her skills by taking piano lessons in elementary school and singing in several choirs before competing as a member of Miley Cyrus’s and Blake Shelton’s teams. “I definitely learned you have to be yourself,” Metzger says. “You have to show who you are and show your truth all the time because ultimately that’s how people are going to connect with you.”

In November, Metzger moved to Nashville, where she has been working on some original songs, new YouTube covers and growing her fan base there. Consider us, #TeamKarlee.

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