KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A year after KC RiverFest was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of people made their way to Berkley Riverfront Park in Kansas City, Missouri, to celebrate the Fourth of July Sunday evening.
It’s 5:30, so @KCRiverfest is officially underway. The Fourth of July celebration at Berkley Riverfront Park is free this year. Fireworks are scheduled to go off over the Missouri River at 10pm. #BoomKC pic.twitter.com/I7fuq6NeKp— Charlie Keegan (@CharlieKeegan41) July 4, 2021
The event began at 5:30 p.m. with several changes compared to previous events, including fewer musical performances, no bounce houses or crafts for children with several shared touch points.
Sunday's event was also free, whereas there is normally an adult admission price. Friends of the River Kansas City, which organizes the event, decided to eliminate admission in order to avoid funneling crowds through gates.
However, a fireworks show was still scheduled at 10 p.m.
Organizers said watching the crowds instead of the fireworks is the best part.
"You get this moment in time where it doesn’t matter if you’re from the Northland, or the south, it doesn’t matter if you’re from Kansas or Missouri, it doesn’t matter if you’re white or Black, rich or poor, Republican or Democrat, it doesn’t matter; everyone is just having that shared moment watching the fireworks together,” Stefan White, Friends of the River Kansas City board chairperson, said.
People gathered at the event said they felt comfortable in the crowds without masks, despite warnings from epidemiologists that COVID-19's Delta variant is more transmittable outdoors than other variants.
“I feel fine, that’s why we decided to get a good spot and everything so we didn’t have to worry about any of that," Ashley Shatto, who arrived at the park with her family nearly eight hours before the fireworks show in order to get an isolated spot from which to view the display, said.
Before the fireworks, crowds looked up to the sky for another reason: a rare flyover combining the US Navy Blue Angels and US Air Force Thunderbirds was a delight to the many families at the event with military connections.
“I came from a military family, so it’s a celebration and appreciation of the sacrifices people have made," April Sollazzo said.
Parking is available at the park for $10. However, visitors are allowed to park in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, and ride the Streetcar to the City Market.
From there, people will be allowed to walk across the Grand Boulevard Bridge or take a free shuttle.
More information on the event and how to donate to the mission of Friends of the River is available on the KC RiverFest website.