KANSAS CITY, Mo — After a year off due to COVID-19, the Plaza Art Fair kicked off its 90th anniversary at the Country Club Plaza on Friday. Staff say they usually see about 150,000 people over the festival weekend, and they expect to see about the same this year.
Country Club Plaza’s General Manager, Kasey Vena, says the art fair has grown to become an important part of Kansas City’s community and its culture since being established in 1932. But the purpose has remained the same: celebrate art, music, food and the unofficial start of fall.
“To be able to bring this back for both the artists but also restaurants and musicians, I mean, to have all of their worlds rocked by COVID, to be able to get back into these grooves, to have these events come back … It’s so important to their industries and to the Plaza,” Vena said.
Event organizers are excited to be back in person at full scale following a year of virtual events and small pop-ups. The festival will feature over 200 artists from around the world, 18 local restaurants and three live music stages.
But with COVID-19 concerns still at the forefront, they have spread out this year’s event across nine blocks. Masks are strongly encouraged, even though it is outdoors, and there are hand sanitizing stations scattered throughout the venue.
Co-owner of Rye, Megan Garrelts, says not having the event last year was a smart move, but she is looking forward to building relationships with the community again. It is a yearly reminder of what makes Kansas City great and all the local gems visitors can discover.
“You know, it's more just advertising and foot traffic to the restaurants," Garrelts said. "I encourage people, when they come down to the art fair, to not only just go to the art fair booths and food booths, but go to lunch or go to brunch on the Plaza before you submerge yourself into the actual festival.”
Brian Blackham, a first-time contemporary still-life painter from Salt Lake City, says events like this are a huge help for artists. Many of them lost revenue from canceled events the last 18 months.
“For some, it’s everything, you know?" Blackham said. "It was a tough grind to muscle through the year and a half where they were all canceled."
And for Charlie Podrebarac, a long-time Kansas City artist, he is back again for his 30th year at the art fair.
“It’s fun, it’s Kansas City. And after two years off because of the pandemic, we’ve got a lot of pent-up art action going," Podrebarac said. "Really excited this weekend — the weather is going to be perfect."
The event will run throughout the weekend from 5-10 p.m. on Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
For more information on the Plaza Art Fair, visit their website.