‘Something to cherish’: Thousands celebrate at KC RiverFest after last year canceled


KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A sense of community restored. Celebrations happened across the metro, after most were canceled last year because of the pandemic. Thousands take part in KC RiverFest at Berkley River Front Park.

The dress code was, “Red, white and blue,” 9-year-old David said.

KC RiverFest unloaded a sense of community and freedom. Even four-legged friends dressed for the occasion, one pup sporting and American Flag shirt. 

“If you asked me a year ago, based on everything that was coming out, I probably wouldn’t think we were here at this point,” Steven Burns said.

He started the day at 3 p.m. playing the famous tailgate game, bags/corn hole, with friends and family.

Several bands took center stage with live performances. Sizzling food was available for purchase, but the price to get in for the fireworks? Free!

KC RiverFest usually sees 60,000-90,000 people, Chairman Stephan White said.

Friends of the River Kansas City is a non-profit. They raise money to clean up local rivers and parks. They know it’s been a rough year for everyone. 

“Coming out of COVID times, I just feel like people don’t have a lot of money to spend. The city was really cool and said, ‘Don’t do the tickets, and just let everybody come down and have a good time’. So, they covered a lot of that,” White said. 

Last year, the event was canceled due to the pandemic. 

“It was obviously pretty sad,” Kona Ice director of operations Haley Medeloin said.

Kona Ice took a hit during the pandemic. Medeloin said this is their biggest event of the year.

“It is very exciting to have it back,” Medeloin said. “When I got the email that it was coming back, I literally screamed in my bed.”

“Last year just really sucked,” Regina Sherrill said. “So, it’s nice just being able to get out in the community again and celebrate.”

This year, some patrons experienced their first social Independence Day. 

“Your first celebration of Fourth of July!” David Duong said to his 14-month-old granddaughter.

For others, it was old hat. Sunday was Raul Hernandez’s sixth time at KC RiverFest. 

With the celebration, we remember how we earned our freedom and honor the heroes who help us keep it. 

“There have been so many who have fought and died for our country,” Sherrill said. “Sometimes we don’t appreciate all the sacrifices people put into having this day available for us, so something to cherish and celebrate.”

“Thank you for your service, appreciate everything that you do,” Burns said. 

This is the 19th year for KC RiverFest. It’s the first year they didn’t charge $5 a ticket for adults.

They sold water and soda to add to their fund . White said it all goes back to cleaning our parks and rivers in the community.

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