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Arts & Life

7 Things To Do With The Masses In Kansas City This Weekend

Jason Wickersheim
Two West Inc.

If you consider three a crowd, you might want to catch up on your Netflix queue this weekend.

But if you’re ready to sample a bumper crop of community festivals and other organized excuses to party, then it’s time to join the waiting throngs.

What are they waiting for? Well, if you’re watching “Orange is the New Black” or “House of Cards,” we’ll miss you. But not that much!

1. Old Shawnee Days

National and local entertainers plus all sorts of family fun – including a parade, games and neighborly competitions – are what the crowds can expect at this annual Johnson County street fest. There’s Friday night’s concert by Kansas City Beatles band Liverpool (preceded by a 1960s costume contest) and Saturday night’s show by ’80s hit band Loverboy (who, believe it or not, are still “Working for the Weekend”). And don’t miss the tasty results of Sunday’s baking contest, especially if you’ve entered. Represent!

Thursday, 6-10 p.m. (carnival only); Friday, 6-10 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. (parade), 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday, 11:30 a.m.-6 p.m.; Shawnee Town, 11600 Johnson Drive, Shawnee, Kan. Admission: free.

​2. Festa Italiana

The Bronx Wanderers from New York will perform joyful approximations of songs made famous by Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons and Dion & the Belmonts on Friday and Saturday nights at the 10th annual north-of-the-river fest honoring Italian-American culture. You can bet your mama’s secret spaghetti recipie that folks will also be lining up for their favorite Italian dishes, as well as cheering on crazy contestants in the meatball and cannoli eating contests – a.k.a. “No Time for Napkins.”

Friday, 5-10 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Town Square and the streets of Zona Rosa, 8640 N. Dixson Ave., Kansas City, Mo.; admission: free (mansion tours extra).

3. Vaile Mansion Strawberry Festival

Strawberries with shortcake and ice cream? Yep, that’ll work. Even so, the promise of the traditional summertime treat is merely one inducement to get you on the grounds of the historic Vaile Mansion in Independence, where there will also be lots of antiques and collectibles for sale, vintage cars on display and turn-of-the-last-century live entertainment to help strolling visitors while away their day in an old-fashioned way.

Saturday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Vaile Mansion, 1500 N. Liberty St., Independence, Mo.; admission: free (fee for mansion tours).

4. Gladstone Summertime Bluesfest

The blues are supposed to be sad. But for some reason it’s also dance music. Of course, thoughts of any such contradiction will have passed by the time people find room to move and shake it (but don’t break it) at this 20th annual municipal music fest offering such acts as Jason Vivone & the Billy Bats, Renee Austin and the Ghost Town Blues Band, suggesting that even the dearly departed dig the blues.

Friday, 6 p.m.; Saturday, 2 p.m.; Oak Grove Park, 76th Street and North Troost Ave., Gladstone, Mo.; admission: free (parking $5)

5. ‘I Love the ’90s’

Your 1990s wasn’t necessarily my 1990s. But part of the decade’s popular soundtrack reached just about everyone, including Tone Loc’s “Funky Cole Medina, which had enough music-video plays on MTV to make the hip rapper a household name. Loc is part of Friday’s “I Love the ’90s” concert, headlined by Salt N Pepa and also featuring Vanilla Ice, Coolio, Young MC and Rob Base. Yo, let the memories flow.

Friday, 6:30 p.m.; Providence Medical Center Amphitheater, 633 N. 130th St., Bonner Springs, Kan.; tickets: $25-$150.

6. Boston, Night Ranger, Foghat

Fans of 1970s and ’80s commercial rock should get their money’s worth from this trio of crowd-pleasing bands. Boston (“More Than a Feeling,” “Peace of Mind,” “Rock and Roll Band,” “Smokin’,” “Amanda”) is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its first album, while Night Ranger (“Sister Christian”) still knows how to excite the masses with a nice power ballad and Foghat just wants everyone on board for a never-ending “Slow Ride,” a ditty that blasted incessantly on my high school lunchroom jukebox. So turn it up!

Sunday, 6:30 p.m.; Starlight Theatre, 4600 Starlight Road, Kansas City, Mo.; tickets: $19.75-$127.96

7. First Fridays

There may be no better place to hobnob with your fellow human beings than at First Fridays in the Crossroads Arts District, where looking at people is at least as much fun as beholding the art in participating galleries. You might want to wander into the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center and check out Kristopher Clark’s show, “Discerning Dreams and the Archetypes.” I’m always interested in sizing up my fellow fantasists.

Friday, after 5 p.m.; 19th and Main streets, Kansas City Mo.; admission: free.

Brian McTavish is a regular arts and culture contributor for KCUR 89.3. Reach him by email at

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