John Calvin McCoy, founder of Westport, would be proud to know that Michelle Ferguson is serving up coffeecake from a food truck down the hill from his grave.
McCoy knew a little about commerce and the importance of location, location, location in earning a buck.
For Ferguson, the location on third Fridays of the month is Union Cemetery, where many of Kansas City’s pioneers rest.
The lunch crowd for the 2017 kickoff in April included workers on their breaks from Hallmark Cards, Children’s Mercy Hospital, the Shook, Hardy & Bacon law firm — employers McCoy couldn’t have imagined springing from the gateway to what skeptics in the 1850s called the Great American Desert.
CoffeeCake KC and three other food trucks formed a line squeezed between the headstones.
“We’ve done a cemetery once before, in 2015,” said Ferguson. “But that was for Halloween.”
This is the third year for Food Truck Fridays at Union Cemetery, which has drawn as many as 300 people for lunch.
“It’s a way to get people introduced to this cemetery, because a lot of people don’t even know it’s here,” said Kevin Fewell, president of the board of the Union Cemetery Historical Society.
An acoustic guitarist strummed at the April event. A black poodle named Oscar, owned by a society member, pranced among the dead as he did at every lunch last year.
Six Federal Reserve workers shared a picnic table, among them Susan Taylor trying Filipino cuisine.
“We’re just avid supporters who like to come for something different beyond our own cafeteria,” she said.
A co-worker added: “Who doesn’t like to hang out in a cemetery with food and soft music playing?”
Nobody has ever voiced unease about the arrangement, Fewell said. Owned by Kansas City Parks and Recreation, the cemetery today is mostly regarded as a park to those who discover it. “A park with graves,” said society member Carter Enyeart.
Check out their markers after eating:
▪ Alexander Majors was a partner in the Russell, Majors and Waddell freighting firm, which in 1860 started the Pony Express.
▪ George Caleb Bingham painted portraits and scenes that are regarded among the best sources for understanding Missouri life in the last half of the 1800s.
▪ Josephine Anderson, the 14-year-old sister of Southern renegade “Bloody Bill” Anderson, perished when a jail holding her collapsed in 1863. The tragedy spurred men led by William Quantrill to raid the Union stronghold of Lawrence.
The cemetery includes a plot of 19th-century Chinese, a marker for Confederate troops who were captured at the Battle of Westport and died war prisoners, and the graves of veteran of all wars from the American Revolution to Vietnam.
Be part of a tour from 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. May 20 by signing up at www.uchskc.org.
Like any city park, upkeep and preservation require the attention of volunteers who care. Last year, historical society fundraising helped pay for tombstone restoration and asphalt to cover road ruts tripping up joggers and skateboarders. In April 2016, the U.S. Interior Department announced its listing of the cemetery on the National Register of Historic Places.
The society gets a 10 percent slice of the food vendors’ sales.
Food Truck Fridays, Union Cemetery
Where: 227 E. 28th Terrace
Hours: Third Friday of the month, 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. During the week, the cemetery is open from 8 a.m.-3 p.m.
Directions: From Crown Center, go two blocks south on Grand Boulevard, turn left at Warwick Trafficway (before you reach Main Street). It’s behind Hallmark Cards’ headquarters.