The temperature outside may have been in the low 40s Wednesday evening, but Gates Plaza at 12th and Brooklyn was on fire.
Rapper Tech N9ne headlined Twelfth Street Heritage Development Corporation’s annual Santa’s Wonderland toy give-away with the help of Strange Music label mate Krizz Kaliko and national recording artist MAJOR. The trio made sure hundreds who braved the chill for hours would not leave disappointed.
Born Aaron Yates, Tech N9ne was raised near Gates Plaza. On record as one of the genre’s most successful independent artists, Yates, 46, reflected on his upbringing prior to his performance.
“I grew up three blocks from here, so it’s always a pleasure for us to come down and serve the people,” Yates said. “It’s a blessing to be able to give.”
Kaliko, a successful independent artist in his own right, was equally thrilled to lend a hand.
“I’ve been blessed,” Kaliko said. “I have to give back.”
Described as a family-friendly Christmas party for the city’s urban core, the event featured a live DJ, photo opportunities with Santa, live performances from Yates and others and plenty of dancing.
The line to receive gifts officially opened at 2 p.m., but Connie Stanley-Powell of Independence and five grandchildren arrived at noon and waited nearly six hours for festivities to begin.
The wait, Stanley-Powell said, was long but worth it.
“This is awesome,” she said.
Jon R. Gray, an attorney at Shook, Hardy and Bacon, and wife, Valerie Childs, were honorary co-chairs for Santa’s Wonderland. A niece, 11-year-old Kennedy Childs, joined them as chair. Kennedy provided a young, fresh perspective, the couple said.
“I don’t know what the kids feel like, but growing up in a family where you don’t really have to worry about not getting the toys that you want, it’s nice to give back,” Kennedy said.
Singer-songwriter MAJOR., a Texas native, made his first appearance in Kansas City Wednesday. He said teaming with artists such as Yates and Kaliko to help the community was a blast.
“We’re here, in the heart of the city, and letting the people know they are not forgotten,” he said.