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Kansas City Irish Fest balances COVID-19 safety with economic boost

Labor Day weekend kicks off return of festivals
the food spot.png
Posted at 9:00 PM, Sep 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-03 00:21:48-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Some of the Kansas City metro's largest festivals – including Kansas City Irish Fest, the SantaCaliGon Days Festival, Plaza Art Fair and Renaissance Festival – will start to return this Labor Day weekend, drawing hundreds of thousands of people.

Now, festival organizers are tasked with figuring out how to balance COVID-19 protocols with the economic boost the events give vendors and exhibitors.

Kansas City Irish Fest, which begins Friday, has nearly doubled its footprint, not only to allow for social distancing, but so attendees can have some fun, too.

“We are very much aware that our country, our world, is not back to normal yet,” Gabert said.

Gabert figured out how they’ll spread out nearly 90,000 people. All inside activities will now be set up outside, and additional sanitation stations will be made available.

The Crown Center Fountains already have turned green for the event start Friday.

“I’m so excited for the weekend,” Irish Fest Director Erin Gabert said.

And that excitement is exactly why Kelly Brooks wanted to set up her food truck, The Spot, for her 15th year.

RELATED: SantaCaliGon Days Festival returns; COVID-19 vaccines available

“Funnel cakes, burgers, corn dogs and lots of fries will go through here," she said.

Brooks said the food truck sat empty for more than nine months. For many musicians and vendors, events like Irish Fest are their livelihood.

“We are glad to have this thing back in action," Brooks said.

But she also wants people who venture out to have fun.

“When you sit at home and you’re ready to get out, it's time," Brooks said. "It’s time. Everybody does need to mask up and social distance, that’s the main thing.”

Kansas City, according to Gabert, is "hungry" for the event.

“A lot of other events that were supposed to happen this summer still had to get canceled, so we feel incredibly fortunate that we are able to have it this weekend," Gabert said.

Irish Fest organizers said their set-aside hotel rooms sold out and the overflow hotel sold three times more rooms than usual.

SantaCaliGon organizers expect 300,000 people to attend. Masks are encouraged – not required – and there will be vaccination opportunities at the festival as well.