Mayor Sly James hosted his fourth end-of-summer Rock the Block party Saturday at Union Station and took the occasion to claim a measure of success.
Billed as Sly’s Rock the Block, the event has become the flagship event for a summer of youth programming that James promoted to keep young people out of trouble.
However, the block party ended about an hour early after fights broke out among teenagers at the event.
This summer, the city’s youth leagues for basketball, soccer and volleyball, along with arts and education programs, drew about 8,500 young people, according to the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department.
James praised parks officials for leading those programs and said the young people attending the events were at least 16 percent less likely to be victimized by, or involved in, crime.
In recent years, the Country Club Plaza and other entertainment districts have become scenes of conflict between teenagers and authorities. The programs were meant, in part, to relieve pressure from those areas.
“There are a lot of instances where people tell us where they don’t want our kids,” James said to an early crowd of several hundred people. “We have established programming where our kids are most definitely wanted.”
The block party appeared to come off satisfactorily in the afternoon before running into trouble later in the evening. After dark, several teenagers were kicked out, and a few arrested, after fights broke out at the event. Organizers closed the gates and ended the event early about 10 p.m. The event was meant to continue until 11 p.m.
The party started about 4 p.m. Saturday in front of Union Station with music, a performance by the local Royal Diamonds drill team and some crowd work by KC Wolf, mascot for the Kansas City Chiefs.
A rare a capella performance of Three Dog Night’s 1973 hit “Shambala” came from Stage Right KC, an Overland Park show choir.
With temperatures reaching about 90 degrees, volunteers supervised a set of basketball goals on one end of the parking lot and a bounce house for smaller children on the other.
James cautioned visitors against allowing the party to be marred by any of the same trouble — fights or misbehavior — that it sought to prevent.
Under a collection of tents nonprofits and city staff offered information about health care, domestic violence prevention and treatment, recycling, and parks department programs. Trucks with cheeseburgers did business alongside a vendor promoting fruits and vegetables.
Whitney King of Kansas City attended the block party for the first time and brought her children, ages 6, 9 and 11, plus a 3-year-old cousin. The older children all had their faces painted in a Girl Scouts tent and had a long list of activities to do before they left. “It’s a great event to get everybody out,” King said. “There are so many programs that are available. I was surprised.”