Art fairs, city festivals and other fun events unite community.
What is better than community spirit? It unites towns and people. It extols the best virtues of an area. It’s essentially putting that best foot forward. With May and June, groups are doing their best to show that kinship as it relates to music, culture, food and the arts. Remember, some events in town are free while others have admission fees.
Jim Cosgrove, who may be better known as Mr. Stinky Feet to thousands of youthful fans, probably best defines why the Kansas City metropolitan area knows how to put on festivals. “Families are always looking for cool things to do with their kids,” he says. “Fundamentally, we all want to get together and enjoy each other’s company in a fun environment.” Cosgrove serves as president of the board for Jiggle Jam. The third annual presentation hits in late May at Crown Center. “Not only have families given us positive feedback, we get it from the performers. Jeni and I have worked hard to produce a great line-up for family entertainment.”
The scene at Jiggle Jam is also like a family. The Cosgroves work to recognize the talent. Jim says the stronger the talent and the stronger the musicians are, especially in Kansas City, the better off everyone is. “When Jiggle Jam is hopping, there is a tremendous sense of community. You feel like you are part of something bigger. It’s our drive to take the talent in Kansas City and share it. What we do have is passion for family music.”
That family entertainment may be key to the success and longevity for many festivals. Lawrence Art Guild has spearheaded the Art in the Park event for 48 years. This year marks 49 May 2. “We are part of one of those communities that is pro-art and proactive. People look forward to our event. They love the fine arts, crafts and children’s activities. It works out well for everyone. I love that I get to see the same faces each year. People carpool and come visit,” says former guild president Linda Baranski. “We also gain from being part of a university town. It’s a town full of community spirit.”
Certain festivals mark how the metropolitan area is a melting pot like the Kansas City Scottish Highland Games. In mid-June, the games provide a chance to help the community look into culture and genealogy, says spokeswoman Jen Charlesworth. “While there are the games, there is also genealogy research. Perhaps you have heard that you have an ancestry to a Scottish clan. This is a chance to look into that specific clan. Many people have family histories that are Scottish, Irish and English. We are such a melting pot.” The event is 33 years old. “There are even kid-friendly versions of the games, like a version of caber tossing, along with all the athletics by the adult pros and amateurs.”
Liberty Arts Squared is a new festival on the historical square in Liberty. For one day, June 5, an amalgam of visual, performing, literary and children’s artists will find a setting. Co-chair Trish Hughes says, “We are going to make it an arts weekend. That same weekend is the Prairie Village Art Fair so we are hoping people will spend Saturday with us and Sunday with them. It could be a nice change for folks to come to the Northland.”
Co-chair Heather Jones says the Liberty Arts Commission wanted a way to promote the arts and the Historic Downtown Liberty group wanted to see the Square touted again. “The timing is right to celebrate local artists,” Hughes says. The women are hoping to attract local and regional artists seeking a convenient place to share their creativity. “The children’s area is shaping up nicely with Stone Lion Puppets, Wonderscope and an instrument petting zoo.” Jones says families need substantive entertainment and enrichment. “Art does that. It enriches lives and unites people of all ages,” she says.
During Father’s Day weekend, Kansas City Chalk & Walk Festival is sure to draw families to the Crown Center area. Executive Director Lotti Halpern says the festival is multicultural and multigenerational. “Parents and children work together on family squares or a children’s corridor. Chalk is such an accessible medium. We have amateurs and professional artists chalking together. Artists start with empty squares of asphalt and by the end of the weekend, these squares will be transformed into magnificent pieces of artwork.” To continue the sort of European style setting, Halpern says there will be street performers, break-dancers, puppeteers and more.
Second Saturdays starts in May and runs through September in North Kansas City. Police Maj. Steve Beamer may seem a little unlikely to head the ongoing event, but he got the idea after visiting Portland, Ore., during a Green Cities Conference and made a stop at the 36-year-old Portland Saturday Market. “It was all around one of the light rail stops and I had to get off to see all the art. It is self-sustaining and supportive of the artistic community. I liked the bohemian feel and figured we could do this.”
Beamer started appealing to arts groups in the city and got some positive responses. The Art Market will be located on Fayette Street, just south of Armour Road. Beamer says the artists can be part of a synergy that combines the jazz concert series and the local hotrod and car cruise night. “While this is not a juried show, it is a fine art show and a review panel is deciding this. The idea is to have a nice mix of different types of art. Of course, the first event will be important to see if the artists and the visitors unite during the summer months. If the artists find success and visitors like the experience, we will move into 2011.”