The Waddell family at home in Willard, Missouri
Photo by Brandon AlmsThe Waddell family found the perfect community for them in Willard, Missouri. Purchase Photo

Willard, Missouri is Friday Night Lights, community parades and neighborhood block parties. Home to about 6,511 residents, according to the United States Census Bureau, the town emanates a sense of hometown pride. Jamie and Nicole Waddell are both teachers in the Willard school district, and Jamie coaches boys’ and girls’ soccer. Their boys—Beckett, 9, and Dax, 6—play “all the sports,” Nicole says, including baseball, basketball, soccer, football and golf.

Before making the move from Springfield five years ago, Nicole wanted more land. Their search led them to a new street in Willard that was being developed only three minutes from the schools where Nicole and Jamie work. She was able to work with an architect and build the perfect house for her family. “We love our little street,” she says. Initially planning to stay for a few years before building their “forever home,” the love they have for their tight-knit neighborhood has prompted them to reconsider. “We just love our neighbors so much, and our boys have friends to play with,” Nicole says. “It’s such a neat little community.”

Speaking of community, Willard knows how to rally. Everyone in town is extremely connected through the school district and their love for Friday Night Lights, Nicole says. Come fall, the whole town—parents, children, business owners—takes a half day off school or work to attend the homecoming parade. Before the first football game of the season, there is a community tailgate, with parking lots crowded with vendors and families firing up grills for hamburgers and hot dogs. “I just can’t imagine being anywhere else,” Nicole says. “The people and the school district are what I love so much.”

Bike trail in Willard, MO

Willard is one of the many picturesque stops for cyclists on the Frisco Highline Trail.

Food from The Hive in Willard MO

The Hive is a the perfect spot to stop for coffee and locally-made snacks.

Photos courtesy Chuck Travers, The Hive

What Residents Love About Willard, Missouri