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7 Tried And True Things To Do In Kansas City This Weekend

International music, dance and food, food, food will draw big crowds to the 36th annual Ethnic Enrichment Festival.

Been there and done that? Lucky you. Not been there and done that? Lucky you, too.

That’s because whether you’re an old hand or a newbie regarding this weekend’s tried-and-true entertainment and attractions – some familiar annual events, some well-known in other ways – their established allure is undeniable.

Proven pleasures include checking in with the eccentric residents of Lake Wobegon, sizing up local teen singing stars and applauding aerial acrobats above the downtown skyline. Let’s do it (perhaps again), shall we?

1. Garrison Keillor’s ‘A Prairie Home Companion: The America the Beautiful Tour’

Beloved writer and humorist Garrison Keillor recently announced that the upcoming season of his longtime public radio variety show, “A Prairie Home Companion,” will be his last. Which makes his current live tour – presented to audiences in the same homespun fashion as the radio program, including contributions from stellar sound-effects man Fred Newman – feel like a goodbye, as well. As such, the tour’s version of the news from Lake Wobegon, Keillor’s serialized monologue chronicling the amusing and touching goings-on in his fictional hometown, may prove especially bittersweet. Cut yourself a slice of Bebop-a-Rebop Rhubarb Pie to soften the blow.

Saturday, 7:30 p.m.; Starlight Theatre, 4600 Starlight Road, Kansas City, Mo.; tickets: $20-$45

2. ‘West Side Story’

Spinning Tree Theatre’s production of the musical theater milestone, “West Side Story,” will have the same tragic lovers and warring gangs that made the show a Broadway sensation in 1958. But Spinning Tree isn’t stopping there. It’s mounting of “West Side Story” is being touted as Kansas City’s “first all-local professional production” of the show. And it will feature the original’s groundbreaking choreography by Jerome Robbins, with the permission of his estate. You have permission to be wowed.

Thursday, 7:30 p.m. (preview); Friday, 8 p.m. (preview), Saturday, 8 p.m. (sold-out); Sunday, 2 p.m.; the Arts Asylum, 1000 E. Ninth St., Kansas City, Mo.; $15-$42.50.

3. KC Superstar

A yearly high-school singing competition, ala TV’s “American Idol” and “The Voice,” KC

Superstar is back with 10 finalists from nine area schools vying for a $10,000 scholarship – and the audience gets to decide the winner. Friends and family members of contestants will be in large supply, which may explain why the event is already sold out at Yardley Hall in the Carlsen Center at Johnson County Community College. Another reason may be that the proceedings will be hosted by Hollywood comic (and Shawnee Mission South High School grad) Rob Riggle. Yet another reason: There will be a Community Superstar tribute to Dayton Moore, general manager of the red-hot Kansas City Royals. Those without a ticket to the hall can still cast a vote for their favorite vocalist by watching a live stream of the event in the “fan room” (aka the adjacent Polksy Theatre). Thank you, technology.

Sunday, 7 p.m.; Carlsen Center, Johnson County Community College, 12345 College Blvd., Overland Park, Kan.; fan room tickets: $15.

4. Chicago and Earth, Wind & Fire

For more than 40 years, Chicago (“Saturday in the Park,” “25 or 6 to 4,” “Color My World”) and Earth, Wind & Fire (“Shining Star,” “Got to Get You into My Life,” “Boogie Wonderland”) have been making mainstream rock and funk audiences happy. The bands’ collective hits in this co-headlining show should keep the party going. No doubt, the needs of nostalgia fans will be duly sated. But – dare I say it? – bring the kids, too, if only for the history laden pop-culture education. Heck, they might even like it.

Friday, 7:30 p.m.; Starlight Theatre, 4600 Starlight Road, Kansas City, Mo.; tickets: $25-$125.

5. Ethnic Enrichment Festival

International music, dance and food, food, food will draw big crowds to the 36th annual Ethnic Enrichment Festival. Barbecue kebabs from Brazil, chicken stew from Ethiopia, cheese crepes from France and dozens of other signature tastes from around the world will tempt local taste buds. Each year, thousands of folks look forward to this opportunity to try new flavors and meet new friends. Now that’s a twofer!

Friday, 6-10 p.m.; Saturday, noon-10 p.m.; Sunday, noon-6 p.m.; Swope Park, 6600 Swope Parkway, Kansas City, Mo.; admission: $3; ages 12 and younger free.

6. Arts & Crafts Beer Festival

The combination of exclusive craft beers with live bands, artists and offbeat independent films sets the annual Arts & Crafts Beer Festival apart from other local suds fests. The two-day amalgam benefitting the KC Pet Project will include screenings of the documentary, “Being Evel,” revealing the darker (as opposed to merely crazy) side of 1970s motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel, and get-up-and-dance performances by Onward Christian Glover and Hillary Watts Riot.

Friday, doors open 5:30 p.m.; Saturday, doors open 5:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m. VIP); Screenland Armour Theatre, 408 Armour Road, North Kansas City, Mo.; tickets: $35, $45 VIP, $65 two-day package (includes VIP).

7. Kansas City Aviation Expo & Air Show

Maybe you don’t like to fly. But who doesn’t enjoy looking up in the sky to see the U.S. Navy Blue Angels zipping through the atmosphere? That marvelous sight will join many other synchronized airborne spectacles during this weekend’s KC Aviation Expo & Air Show. Of course, what goes up, must come down, which will be spiffily demonstrated by the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachuting team. Wild-blue-yonder entertainment to the max.

Saturday and Sunday, gates open at 9 a.m.; Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport, 300 N.W. Richards Road, Kansas City, Mo.; admission: $20; ages 12 and younger free (active duty military members with ID admitted free 9 a.m.-noon Sunday).

Brian McTavish follows popular culture in the belief that the search for significance can lead anywhere. Brian explains, "I've written articles and reviews ... reviewed hundreds of concerts, films and plays. And the thing is, these high arts all sprang from the pop culture of their day. Don't forget: Shakespeare was once Spielberg."
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