Ten years ago, Rae Petersen went to an event at Kansas Citys Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation at which area residents were urged to take on a project to solve a problem in the city.
She recalls a meeting in which a handful of white people were sitting around complaining about racism. The meeting may not have seemed productive at the time, but it did produce results.
Petersen joined with other activists to create the Troost Avenue Festival, a project to help erase the long-held reputation of Troost as a racial dividing line rife with troubles.
The idea mushroomed, and on Saturday, the 10th annual festival attracted people of all races neighbors and representatives of 90 participating groups who filled the 3100 block with music, displays and other activities.
This year, so many bands asked to participate that the performance schedule was set to run until 10 p.m., the latest time ever.
The event began at noon after a mini-parade from Linwood to 31st Street by members of Mothers United, Mothers in Charge and the Show Stoppers Community Drill Team. The Rev. Justin Mathews with Reconciliation Services then called for participants to pray for dividing lines to be broken down.
Kansas City Councilman Jim Glover said there are signs the dividing line is crumbling. You can see people moving in on both sides of Troost, he said. You can see things continuing to improve.
Varied performers such as the KKFI Labor Chorus and the Rappin Foster Grand Parents signed up to take the stage during the day.
At tables along the curbs, dozens of social service, church, school, civic and business groups showcased what they do. Shoppers bought fresh fruit and vegetables in the Mobile Market bus parked at one end of the street. Google Fiber representatives set up operations under a white tent. Connections to Success shared information about its work with ex-offenders.
Diane Marrin, a volunteer with Kansas City Community Gardens, stood at a card table where a few potted plants challenged a brisk wind to stay upright.
We want to expose kids in this neighborhood to our Beanstalk Childrens Garden at Swope Park, Marrin said. If they identify our plants, they get a beanstalk seed to take home to plant.
Woodworker Brad Walsh had his card table covered with neckties and bow ties made of fine wood slats. He came back for his second year at the Troost festival even though he hadnt made a sale at his previous appearance. Walsh said he lives in Waldo but felt connected to midtown as a Rockhurst University graduate and employee of Hallmark Cards.
Janelle Strozier, a case manager at Swope Health, helped man a table to share information about the federal health insurance marketplace.
Were answering questions, Strozier said. Its a lot of education about what health insurance is, what co-pays and premiums are.
Petersen said she was pleased with the 10th edition of the festival. She said that even a late-morning lightning bolt that crackled too close for comfort was a good thing: We all ran indoors and got close together.