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A Digital 'Christmas In Color' Comes To Kansas City's Historic 18th & Vine District

The Soul of Santa Foundation's Christmas tree lighting, happening this evening, kicks off their highest-profile line of events of the year.
Luke X. Martin
KCUR 89.3
The Soul of Santa Foundation's Christmas tree lighting, happening this evening, kicks off their highest-profile line of events of the year.

Despite last minute changes to accommodate coronavirus concerns, organizers hope the holiday cheer brings the community together and boosts morale and business.

The holiday season kicks off this evening in Kansas City's 18th and Vine District with a Christmas tree lighting and the Soul of Santa Foundation's second annual holiday concert.

"Christmas in color is what we call it," says Tucker Lott, who takes on the role of Santa for the festivities and is the foundation's executive director. "This is about diversity and inclusion, you know, and it's about pulling the city together, and pulling the community together."

Due to coronavirus precautions, this year's event has been moved to a digital, livestream format, but Lott says they're prepared to encourage social distancing for anyone who shows up in person.

Despite the last minute pivot, Lott says he's thankful the event could continue.

"What everybody's recognizing is the District needed to have this event, you know, to keep the people moving and keep the morale going and to keep hope alive," he says.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, Missouri Rep. Barbara Anne Washington and 3rd District Councilwoman Melissa Robinson are slated to speak at the tree lighting, which begins at 6 p.m. Lott credits Negro Leagues Baseball Museum president Bob Kendrick for encouraging him to hold the celebration in the historic district.

The lighting and concert serve as an opening act for a community breakfast and toy giveaway on Saturday morning, which has shifted to a drive-thru format. Lott says they expect to serve 200 or more children.

Lott, who has a daughter with epilepsy, says he wanted to created an organization that focuses on supporting families and children who are part of disabled and disenfranchised communities.

"Every need these days is really big because of COVID and a number of other things, like the state of our economy," Lott says.

Though the in-person segments of the event have been called off, the tree will be lit up and open to the public through the end of the year.

"It would have been wonderful to have all the people in the crowd down there at 18th and Vine like we did last year," he says. "But I really want it to be a tradition that people will gravitate to and bring people down to the 18th and Vine District and see the entrepreneurship grow down there and the businesses grow."

Alexander Arnold lives in the area and says he's excited to see the tree lit up bright, especially as it'll be so close to the Black Lives Matter mural that was painted on 18th Street in September.

"I love that 18th and Vine is getting more recognition because it is a historic Black location," he says.

The Soul of Santa Christmas Tree Lighting and Holiday Concert begins at 6 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 4 at the corner of 18th Street and The Paseo in Kansas City, Missouri. The event will be streamed live on the Soul of Santa's Facebook Page. More information can be found at thesoulofsanta.org.

As culture editor, I oversee KCUR’s coverage of race, culture, the arts, food and sports. I work with reporters to make sure our stories reflect the fullest view of the place we call home, so listeners and readers feel primed to explore the places, projects and people who make up a vibrant Kansas City. Email me at luke@kcur.org.
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