Editorials

A new Kansas City arts festival is an idea worth pursuing

The Kansas City Renaissance Festival in Bonner Springs is just one of the events that helps make living in this region so enjoyable.
The Kansas City Renaissance Festival in Bonner Springs is just one of the events that helps make living in this region so enjoyable. Special to The Star

People like having a good time, which is pretty much the No. 1 goal of fairs and festivals. And while the Kansas City area already has plenty of those kinds of enjoyable events, adding more could be a sound move, too.

After all, as we’re finding out this year, Kansas Citians can’t always count on the Royals to essentially create a monthlong joy ride in baseball’s playoffs, as occurred in the autumns of 2014 and 2015.

Mayor Sly James earlier this week announced an idea to create a signature Kansas City arts festival, describing it as a way to “bring regional and national attention to local talent and resources, provide a venue for creative collaboration and create a positive economic impact for years to come.”

Under James’ plan, the event would be in Swope Park and last three days. It would include music, public art, dance, film screenings and guest speakers.

It sounds ambitious, and it’s quite likely that the first one would be a bit more limited in its scope than now envisioned, giving it room to grow.

It also could turn into an excellent way to build on this region’s growing reputation for being a home to first-class arts events.

Now, how to pay for what sounds like a worthwhile idea?

The City Council next week will consider allocating $250,000 to start the ball rolling on festival planning, including hiring a project manager, while getting support from staff members within the mayor’s office as well as others in City Hall.

But to have a successful, long-term run that would outlast James’ second term in office (which ends in 2019), the private sector will have to step in with funds to help make all of this possible even while other public sources — such as state funds — could be sought, too.

The wide variety of festivals in this region depend on a mixture of public and private funds.

Some are hyper-local and just draw a few hundred people. Others, such as the Plaza Art Fair held last week, attract tens of thousands of people from all over.

The mayor’s office and others will have to flesh out the details of the festival, to find the proper timing for it and to find good ways to make it stand out from other local events.

James is onto something here. His legacy as the city’s top elected official would be enhanced if he and others could create an event that would delight audiences for many years to come.

Still, coming up with the idea is just the first needed step toward raising the money and public interest that will be required to hold a signature Kansas City arts festival.

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