Connecting the Community
Watch out Rountree, there’s another neighborhood Halloween Parade in town, and this one takes place in Southern Hills. Jay and Lori Hill started the event in 2010. To be fair, Rountree’s epic Halloween parade is what inspired them. Before moving to Southern Hills, the couple considered living in Rountree. They were drawn by the sense of community in the neighborhood. “You see a lot of people sitting on their porches and talking,” Jay says. “We ended up choosing Southern Hills, but we wanted to figure out a way to get to know our neighbors better.”
It took a few years for the Hills to see more young families move in, but once they did, the Hills decided to bring a little bit of Rountree to Springfield’s south side. Now, every Halloween, Jay turns the family’s front yard into the parade meeting spot. There are popup tents, a firepit, hay bales for seating and inflatables for the kids to play in, and attendees bring all sorts of chili, hot dogs, chips and sides. The first year, the Hills posted hand-written signs around the neighborhood, and Jay estimates 20 people showed up. The second year, the crowd grew to 50, and now more than 100 people gather in costume to celebrate the night.
The event has been such a hit that Jay decided to throw together a similar event for the Fourth of July. The tents are hauled out of storage, tables full of food are set up, and neighbors form a line of golf carts, scooters and bikes all draped in patriotic flair. Someone inevitably brings a vintage car to lead the parade, and the whole gaggle of friends stroll down the half-mile parade route through the neighborhood.
For most people, hosting two big events a year might be enough, but not for the Hills. Jay loves this stuff. His latest event is a kids’ fishing derby each May. “Kids ages 2 to 18 are welcome,” he says. Contestants spend the afternoon trying to catch the biggest fish. Once they hook a fish, they reel it in, record its length and set it free. (The ponds at Southern Hill are catch and release after all.) The event even has prizes donated from local companies including Bass Pro Shops and Lew’s Fishing, and like all of the Hill’s annual gatherings, the derby wouldn’t be complete without throwing burgers on the grill.