After working till 3 a.m., Cheryl Kimmi is back early Sunday and on only one cup of coffee as she begins to juggle 300 volunteers and 49 performances from the Plaza to the Crossroads.
Just a typical day for the founder and executive director of the KC Fringe Festival.
In a cluttered room in the bottom of Union Station, volunteers show up early for assignments and supplies, staffers meet to discuss the day’s shows, somebody takes coffee orders, another passes out T-shirts, patrons wave through the window, and in the middle of it all is Kimmi, who started all this in 2005.
Seven shows, including “Dear White People” at the Fishtank, started at 11 p.m. or later the night before.
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“I start every day about 6 a.m. and go till about 3 a.m.,” she said. “That’s what we have to do because this thing has grown so fast and is now so big.”
So, after 11 years is she ready to turn things over to someone else?
At that she covers her face with both hands and lowers her head.
Then she raises back up: “I love it. I love watching these artists grow — ready to take a next step. That’s why we started this.”
Oh, how her baby has grown.
KC Fringe Festival gives exposure to untapped artists in music, theater, dance, storytelling, film, puppetry and visual arts. Performers pay a $350 fee and are guaranteed a minimum of three shows. KC Fringe Festival provides the venue, lights, sound and technicians.
Tickets are $10 with $6 going to the performer, $3 to the venue and $1 to the festival. A one-time purchase of a $5 button is also required.
The first year amounted to three days and maybe 50 shows.
This year? 11 days, 480 performances by 116 groups at 21 venues.
“Every year we’ve grown, and I’m told we’re to the point where we’re going to have to start paying people,” Kimmi said.
Except for technicians, everyone is a volunteer.
Fringe operations manager Brent Kimmi, her son, agreed a change is in order for professional help. The festival is sort of a victim of its own success.
“We will probably see another 15 percent growth this year,” he said. “Constant changing of moving parts. We started out in warehouses, and now every big venue in town wants us.”
“Some of those early ones didn’t even have air conditioning.” said Sandy Woodson, box office manager.
KC Fringe Festival
▪ The festival runs through July 26. Venues for Monday’s performances include Unicorn Theatre, Screenland Crossroads, Bolender Center, Westport Coffee House, Paul Mesner Puppets and City Stage at Union Station.
▪ For show times, locations and other information, go to kcfringe.org.