KANSAS CITY, Mo. — July 3, 2020, is officially Henry Perry Day in Kansas City, a day to honor the legend who helped develop Kansas City’s iconic barbecue.
One hundred years ago, a clipping of The Kansas City Sun reported Perry fed 1,000 people on the lawn outside of his restaurant.
On Friday, the Kansas City barbecue community will honor Perry and feed 1,000 Kansas Citians with free barbecue, just as he did.
Perry is known as the father of Kansas City Barbecue, and he was inducted into the American Royal Barbecue Hall of Fame in 2014. The Kansas City Barbeque Society showed 41 Action News the proclamation from Mayor Quinton Lucas proclaiming July 3, 2020, as Henry Perry Day.
Historian and librarian Michael Wells said Perry came to Kansas City from Memphis in the early 1900s and started with a barbecue stand in Kansas City’s Garment District.
“Selling smoked meat to workers and, you know, made a business of it and in the process just came a Kansas City legend and gave us really one of the signature things you think of when you think of Kansas City, you think Kansas City barbecue,” Wells said.
Wells added that there isn’t much documentation from that time, but showed 41 Action News the clipping from The Kansas City Sun talking about Perry’s barbecue 100 years ago, which came at his own expense of at least $500.
“Five hundred dollars is quite a bit today, so if you can imagine a hundred years ago, so it was all the more meaningful,” he said. “But what we know about him, he did a very good business. He was very popular here in Kansas City, drawing customers from all over the city, from all walks of life came to his restaurant there at 19th (Street) and Highland (Avenue), so I think he saw that as just his way he could give a little bit back to a community that made him such a success.”
Perry even has ties to the beginnings of well-known institutions of Kansas City barbecue, Gates Bar-B-Q and Arthur Bryant’s.
The Kansas City Barbeque Society will assemble the meals Friday morning with donations from several local barbecue restaurants, including Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que, Jones Bar-B-Q, Zarda BBQ and more. Ten local charities will come get those 1,000 meals to distribute to people in need in Kansas City.
Kansas City Barbeque Society CEO Emily Detwiler said they hope this isn’t the last time they honor Perry.
“We definitely have an idea to create something like this each year, not only to honor Henry Perry but also to potentially to take it to a bigger barbecue idea moving forward, so it is something we would like to continue to do in the future," Detwiler said.