Stacy Needels probably knows downtown Lee’s Summit better than any business owner, city worker or neighborhood jogger.
The 31-year-old director of special events for the Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce helped plan, organize and execute seven years of the annual Downtown Days celebration and is now on her third year running point for Oktoberfest.
From her first year as an intern with Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street through hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of planning two of the biggest festivals in the Kansas City Metro area, Stacy has become intimately educated on the layout, structure and delivery of Main Street’s biggest fundraiser each year and one of the Chamber’s largest annual events.
During her tenure with Main Street, Stacy helped build up an annual festival that doubled its booth space and netted $100,000, elevating the event as the top moneymaker for the nonprofit organization.
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After leaving Main Street, Stacy worked with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation before landing back in downtown, this time at the Chamber of Commerce. She said the transition to managing an event like Oktoberfest was much easier having worked several Downtown Days.
Now, with the help of staff and an army of volunteers, Stacy is helping continue to craft Oktoberfest — the vendors, the schematics, the plans and the execution of a wildly popular community and regional event — into a well-oiled machine.
“I think my favorite part of all the years doing this has been my relationship with the merchants, working the layout, working with all the people,” Stacy said in the same modest tone that has always come from someone as well-informed about city permits, approvals and utilities as anyone in the business.
Her co-worker at the Chamber, Stephanie Kusek, calls her the “best event planner in Lee’s Summit.”
It’s an accolade Stacy smiles about and gently brushes off.
Still, she has a work ethic far beyond her years, and has for so long sharpened that determination to perfect each event down to the final trash can, utility pole and to the inch on each 10-by-10-foot booth.
It’s a principle she is proud to say is borne out of watching her father work.
“I was brought up to be a hard worker,” said Stacy, taking a break from Oktoberfest prep this week to talk about her passions for event planning. “My dad owns his own business, I worked 40 to 50 hours a week during college summers, over Christmas break. Working hard wasn’t an option. It was what was expected. I like to feel good about an event and do whatever I can to make sure the event goes smoothly and something I can be proud of.”
And while she should stand proud for her own accomplishments, Stacy is the first to note it is the spirit of giving back and volunteerism that make the events a true success.
“The volunteers, they’re extremely vital,” said Stacy, noting it takes 400-plus volunteers to make Oktoberfest unfold each year. “The committee, the volunteers — we couldn’t do it without them.”
And when the months of planning and preparation, sweat and stress culminate with the event finalized, Stacy says she can, for a day, decompress.
“I’ll take a day, sleep a lot, then get started planning the next event — work on the follow-up reports, thank-you notes, the after-the-event type of work,” she said.
That’s the type of commitment and attention to detail you can’t teach — and it’s a work ethic that makes Stacy such a valued asset, not just for downtown, but for all of Lee’s Summit.
Lee’s Summit resident John Beaudoin writes about city and civic issues, people and personalities around town. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.