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2018 Year In Review: 10. Morris expands footprint in Ozark

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SPRINGFIELD AND OZARK, AUGUST—At the close of summer, Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris unveiled his plans for the 32-acre Finley Farms in Ozark, featuring the historic Ozark Mill as the anchor.

The plans tied together the renovation of the mill, an ice cream and coffee shop, and relocation of the Riverside Bridge, to form a more concrete picture of the development.

“The entire design will reflect authentic Ozarks style in an understated way. The site will honor the past but won’t be tied down by it,” said Megan Morris, Johnny Morris’ daughter who’s working on the Finley Farms and mill restoration project. Phase I, which includes the opening of The Post, a 1,300-square-foot ice cream and coffee shop, is expected to be completed in the first half of 2019.

Finley Farms’ plans also feature:

  • the renovated Ozark Mill, which will be restored into a working mill for tours;
  • Riverside Grill, a restaurant inside the mill that pays homage to the now-demolished Riverside Inn;
  • The Garrison, a restaurant and speakeasy bar planned in the basement of the mill that’s a tribute to Howard Garrison, original proprietor of the Riverside Inn, who was a bootlegger during Prohibition;
  • The Farm, an urban farm that will grow produce to be used by Riverside Grill chefs;
  • The Chapel, an open-air venue overlooking Finley River meant for ceremonies and as a trail site stop;
  • The Workshop, an interactive makerspace, where guests can take courses in seed starting, beekeeping and weaving inside a renovated 1930s-era industrial garage; and
  • Riverside Bridge, which will be open to the public when not being used for private events.

In September, Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium celebrated the one-year anniversary of its reopening. In its first year, WOW brought in 1.6 million visitors.

To coincide with the anniversary, WOW unveiled plans for expansion, including a 10,000-square-foot addition to open next year housing the Windland Smith Rice International Awards and its annual Nature’s Best Photography exhibition, previously only displayed at the Smithsonian National Museum of History in Washington, D.C.

The expansion is funded by a $15 million donation from FedEx Corp. (NYSE: FDX) and its founder Fred Smith. The awards are named after his late daughter who was a wildlife photographer and conservationist.

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