‘Alive again’: As First Fridays return, businesses and shoppers feel sense of optimism


KANSAS CITY, Mo. — On the first Friday of April, dozens of people were back in the historic West Bottoms for the monthly event with food trucks, vendors and more. 

The weather and the social experience have been a relief for many people coming out of a year of isolation because of COVID-19. This time last year, all sales at Bella Patina were virtual. The store only opens on the first weekend of the month.

Co-owner Nick Allen said more people are starting to come into the store again. 

“That energy is going to start coming back to the city with the Royals opening game yesterday, all those type of things that are starting to make us feel like we can be alive again and get out there and enjoy all the things KC is so great for,” Allen said. 

Shoppers out and about are hopeful about nearing the end of the pandemic. 

“We’ve been waiting for some sunshine,” Jordan Smith from North Kansas City said. “I got vaccinated and my second shot is coming up on the 8th, so I’m looking forward to seeing a lot more people out.” 

Across town in the 18th and Vine District, First Fridays give people a chance to visit the birthplace of Jazz music and Negro Leagues baseball while supporting local vendors. 

Live artists painted pictures of local jazz musicians with a focus on entertainment and education.  

“I don’t know when [the pandemic] is going to end, but I just feel like we’re making progress each day we can come out here and be ourselves,” said Deante Thomas, an artist at First Friday on the Vine. 

First Friday also gives business owners a chance to promote their products. After launching his company during the pandemic, D’juan Betts used First Friday as a chance to give away cans of Rowdy Energy. He said this is the closest he’s seen to normal in a long time. 

“Even though it’s the tail end of everything, it’s showing the signs that hopefully we can get back to normal,” Betts said. 

Out and about, people said they notice more folks wearing masks and following the rules. Many people are hopeful that this a sign of better days ahead. 

“It’s definitely a collective effort as far as businesses to make it the standard for everyone to wear their mask,” Thomas said. 

Health professionals say vaccines are important but remind people that COVID-19 has a lot to do with behaviors. They say if we want to get back to some sense of normalcy, we will have to keep following the guidelines for safety. 

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