It was time for the sixth annual WaterFire to start, and Scott McDonald of Overland Park was with his family dressed out in jackets and hats to see the event for the first time.
“I really don’t know what to expect,” he said.
He was about to find out at 7 p.m. on a cool Saturday evening on the Country Club Plaza with a celebration that included 55 floating bonfires or “braziers” of various designs gliding down Brush Creek.
The event was expected to draw 30,000 to 35,000 people along several blocks of Brush Creek adjacent to the Country Club Plaza, where the bonfires lit up the night accompanied by performances ranging from opera to folk music to dancing, with the acts scheduled to last until midnight.
“I think this is fabulous,” said Kansas City Mayor Sly James in an interview. He later made a few remarks to start the event, welcoming residents from throughout the area. “It’s exactly what we need to bring a little outdoor winter fun to the Plaza.”
WaterFire was inspired by founder Barnaby Evans. He sought to use art to highlight and revitalize a public space when he established the event in Providence, R.I., in 1997. Since then, various cities have picked up the tradition, from Boston to Houston.
The floating bonfires in the Kansas City version on Saturday evening were accompanied by 18 scheduled performances, including the UMKC Conservatory of Music and the Dance Rhythmic Flames, a Kansas City-based group of artists and fire performers.