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Amid violent summer, Irish Fest plans to ratchet up security this year

Irish Fest preparations
Posted at 9:46 PM, Aug 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-26 22:46:51-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - — In the midst of another violent summer in the metro, Kansas City Irish Fest organizers have made security a top priority for the annual event's 17th year this weekend.

Organizers expect around 80,000 people to attend this year's Irish Fest, which takes palce Friday through Sunday at Crown Center in downtown Kansas City, Missouri.

Less than two miles away, two men died early Sunday morning in a double shooting near the Power and Light District.

Those shootings occurred less than a month after 25-year-old Erin Langhofer died in a shooting at a First Fridays event in the Crossroads Art District.

With violence encroaching on the Irish Fest's site, head organizer Keli O’Neill Wenzel said plenty of work has gone into planning security.

“The event has grown, so obviously our security has grown,” she said. “It’s utilizing more resources and talking about it more often. We talk about it all year, not just right before the event.”

A Kansas City, Missouri, police officer told 41 Action News on Monday that extra off-duty officers will be at the event compared to past years.

While specific security measures can’t be discussed, O’Neill Wenzel said anyone who attends should feel safe.

“Security and all sorts of things are always at the top of our list,” she said. “Not unlike any other year, we’ve re-looked at security plans and talked to local and federal law enforcement to look at our plans.”

With KC's ongoing violence and mass shootings dominating headlines across the country, it's natural that some people are concerned about attending large events, psychiatrist Ram Chettiar said.

“A lot of people are worried about the what-if,” he said. “More and more, this is affecting larger quantities of people. The more we’re seeing (violence), the more that people are connecting to these experiences.”

Despite such feelings, Chettiar said people still can enjoy the experience of going out.

“Of course there’s a possibility,” he said. “We should always be vigilant. We should always keep our eyes open and take action, if we’re ever worried or scared. However, that shouldn’t take away from the fun you can have at these events.”

As Irish Fest gets set to kick off, O’Neill Wenzel looked forward to welcoming people from around the metro again.

“We have to enjoy ourselves and celebrate our culture and celebrate everything we’re doing,” she said. “Just know that we are keeping top security this weekend, but we plan on everyone having a great time.”

Gates open at 5 p.m. Friday for the opening day of 2019 Irish Fest.