The music from the main stage and ringing of an arcade couldn’t drown out the noise Saturday from an interactive musical playground, a new addition to the three-day Boulevardia festival.
Jon Taylor, founder of the new Reach Collaborative, and his group set up a piano, pans, triangles, plastic barrels and other items as part of the playground. Then, the instigators, as Taylor called them, put sticks in the hands of children and adults, encouraging them to drum away. Taylor said the music is meant to help people connect and build community.
The cacophony that followed is Boulevardia in a nutshell: off-the-wall and unpredictable but grounded in the community. The urban street festival took over the West Bottoms for the third time this weekend with a carnival, music performances, food and beer vendors.
The heat didn’t deter festivalgoers, but the shady spots around the festival grounds were crowded. Kansas City resident Mark Needman, who rode in the festival’s charity bike ride Saturday morning, said he poured water on his head to stay cool. Proceeds from the ride go to local cancer-fighting nonprofits.
Boulevardia volunteers staffed a water station to help people battle the heat. The festival allows people to bring in empty water bottles, and volunteers offered free refills.
Throughout the festival grounds, people played outdoor games from bean bag toss to Jenga. Jared Eubanks said it’s the festival’s atmosphere that stands out. Saturday was the first time he and his friends had attended Boulevardia. His friend Alex Nagle said he looked forward to “just walking around and seeing what it was all about.”
Reach Collaborative was set up near the carnival in an area called Greenville, where the focus was on sustainability and the community. Cultivate KC, a local nonprofit focused on urban agriculture, sold beer.
Trisha Van Wig, a volunteer with Cultivate KC, helped to hand out cold beer. Her favorite part of the festival was the emphasis on the community.
“I love how many local organizations are here,” she said.
Van Wig said it was fun to have Reach next door.
Taylor said Reach, which started in January, is about connecting people and then using those connections to solve problems.
“I believe a city succeeds when people are connected,” he said.
The playground was an experiment, but Taylor said it was going well. There’s no skill required to play.
“It was the least pretentious thing we could come up with,” he said.
The festival will continue from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. General admission tickets are $20 at the door.