Best Dam Birthday Bash, Bagnell Dam turns 90

Charis Patires
Lake Sun Leader
An aerial photo of Bagnell Dam.

It would have been hard to predict how much the Lake area would change in the 90 years since Bagnell Dam was built. Who knew Lake of the Ozarks would become one of the most popular recreational lakes in America?

To celebrate, a committee has been working for months to organize events for a summer-long birthday bash. With the 90th anniversary of the completion of Bagnell Dam in May and the Missouri Bicentennial in August, local chamber representatives, municipal and county officials, and business owners are coming together to host a celebration called the Best Dam Birthday Bash.

Locally, a variety of events are scheduled from the World’s Largest Boat Parade to one of the biggest fireworks displays ever held at Lake of the Ozarks. For the Missouri 2021 Bicentennial celebration, communities across the state are hosting events including exhibits, photography contests, and festivals. One group is creating a Missouri Bicentennial Time Capsule which local officials are planning to participate in. Many events will be in August coinciding with the Missouri State Fair and the actual date Missouri was founded, August 10.

The spill gates open at Bagnell Dam.

“We are very excited to celebrate Missouri’s Bicentennial and Bagnell Dam’s 90th birthday here at Lake of the Ozarks,” director for the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitor Bureau Heather Brown said. “This event is to not only celebrate a milestone in history but to show people from all over that we have something for everyone here at Lake of the Ozarks. Boating, fireworks, concerts, motorcycle rides, art competitions, a car show and more will be featured during the celebration. We are blessed to live here at the Lake and this community is great about coming together to help promote tourism.”

One of the first events to be held at Lake of the Ozarks this summer is the Guinness World Records Boat Parade on June 12. Boaters will need to register by going to the official Best Dam Birthday Bash website. Counters will be on land to officially tally the number of boats in the parade. The Guinness Book of World Records Largest Boat Parade is currently held by Malaysia with 1,180 boats. The plan is to scatter boats, based upon size, and then coordinate takeoff down the main channel stopping by Margaritaville at the 26-mile marker.

Cost to enter is $50 per boat. The parade begins at 9 a.m. and will be held from the 19-26 mile markers.

The Best Dam Car Show will be held July 31 at Seven Springs Winery. Live music, specialty vendors and food will be a part of the day. Hot rods, classics, restomods and other vehicles will be on display.

The Best BBQ Birthday Bash will be held August 6 and 7 at the Laurie Fairgrounds. This event is also known as the annual 28th annual Hillbilly BBQ Cookoff.

On August 7 a 5K Fun Run/Walk will be at Old Kinderhook starting at 7:30 a.m. The 3.1-mile course will wind through seven golf holes and by the Lake at the 12-mile marker. Cost is $25. Money raised will go to the American Cancer Society.

Also that day, the Best Dam Motorcycle Ride will be hosted by the Zack Wheat Post 624 in Sunrise Beach. This event is free but includes breakfast and t-shirts for a small cost.

Fishermen below Bagnell Dam (ca. 1950).

From August 9-14, an En Plein Air Competition will be held around the Lake. Artists will be painting outdoors at 20 Lake area locations then will feature their work at a show and gala later in the week.

The Best Dam Fireworks Show is scheduled for August 10. The plan is to shoot off fireworks at the same time from barges spread out at multiple locations on the Lake.  Also that day the Best Dam Ice Cream Celebration will be held to celebrate Missouri’s official dessert — the ice cream cone. Stop by your favorite local ice cream shop to see what they offer. The Ice Cream Factory in Eldon is developing a special flavor for the occasion.

Lake area businesses are encouraged to brainstorm to come up with their own event, offer specials, or to participate by hanging banners and signs which are being made to promote the Best Dam Birthday Bash.

More information can be found at Best Dam Birthday Bash on Facebook,, and

* Some events are still in the planning stages. Please check Best Dam Birthday Bash on Facebook for any changes and updates.

Construction of Bagnell Dam.