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Each week, KCUR's Adventure! newsletter brings you a new way to explore the Kansas City region.

816 Day is when we celebrate everything Kansas City. Here's a guide to events around the metro

In a view from the tower, fans gather in front of Union Station to celebrate the Kansas City Chief’s Super Bowl LVII victory before a parade and rally in downtown Kansas City, Mo., Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023.
Julie Denesha
KCUR 89.3
In a view from the tower, fans gather in front of Union Station to celebrate the Kansas City Chief’s Super Bowl LVII victory before a parade and rally in downtown Kansas City, Mo., Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023.

816 Day — held on August 16 — is an annual city-wide celebration of all things Kansas City, Missouri, inspired by the local area code. There are events on multiple days, including concerts, work out sessions, block parties and $8.16 deals at local businesses.

This story was first published in KCUR's Adventure newsletter. You can sign up to receive stories like this in your inbox every Tuesday.

As holidays go, 816 Day is relatively new. The first time 816 Day was recognized was on August 16, 2017, and Kansas City, Missouri, made it official a year later — a celebration of what’s great about this town.

It’s a way to bring people together, inspire pride, encourage the economy, and invite exploration of this city in the heartland.

How should you celebrate? Wear your favorite KC gear and meet fellow Kansas City fans throughout the city.

Sure, KC has a lock on jazz, fountains, sports, and barbeque, but have you visited the city's first Black-owned brewery, danced the Kansas City two-step, or read poetry on the streetcar?

Get out in the city and give a shout to the people and places who make the community special.

How it started

Crowds look at the Kansas City skyline from the World War I Museum and Memorial on May 30, 2021, during the balloon glow.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Crowds look at the Kansas City skyline from the World War I Museum and Memorial on May 30, 2021, during the balloon glow.

In 1947, the area code 816 was assigned by the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, covering the northwest part of Missouri. Through the decades, more area codes were added to Missouri, but 816 area currently covers most of the Kansas City, Missouri metro area, on up to St. Joseph and Savannah, out to Independence and Blue Springs, and down around Harrisonville and Peculiar.

In 2018, then-Mayor Sly James signed Resolution 180582, making 816 Day an official city holiday. But the man who got the effort started was Brian “Bizzy” Benton, who runs the Facebook group KC Where You At (KCWYA).

Benton learned about area-code-associated celebrations in other cities from a friend. With that “why not?” moment, he launched the first 816 Day celebration in 2017.

“I consider it a day of everything I love in Kansas City,” Benton told KCUR’s Gina Kaufmann in 2019. Celebrations included two-steppin’, live jazz, singer/songwriters, poets, DJs, visual artists, and more: “I wanted to represent the local talent, per se, and make sure they got the chance to be showcased as a part of everything great in Kansas City.”

With 816 Day now city-sanctioned, the grassroots celebration grew and grew. 816 Day has become a multi-day party, with activities like a city-wide scavenger hunt, a block party at the 18th and Vine District on Sunday, August 13, and concerts downtown and in the City Market on August 16.

Every year is a little bit different. In 2019, rapper (and now co-founder of Vine Street Brewing) Kemet “the Phantom” Coleman released his album “Electric Park” at 8:16 a.m. on 816 Day.

Through the years, there’s been yoga, church services, step offs, aerialists, double dutch contests, bounce houses… something for everyone.

For the love of the city

A group of people, two wearing 816 Day shirts, pose for picture.
816 Day
Kansas Citians gather for the 816 Day celebration in the Historic 18th and Vine Jazz District.

For the Love of the City is a day-long block party in the Historic 18th and Vine District on Sunday, August 13, hosted by Benton’s 816 Day organization.

The event features a whole slew of community fun, including live entertainment, a kid zone, food trucks, 100 vendors, cultural institutions, dancing in the street and more.

This year, the music focuses on “The Horn Section,” featuring Kansas City instrumentalists like Nneoma Lanea, Love, Mae C, Amber “Flutienastiness” Underwood, Jass Couch, Chris Cnote Nickens, OmaleyB (up from Tulsa, Oklahoma), Chalis O'Neal, trombonist/rapper Kadesh Flow, Back Alley Brass Band, as well as DJs throughout the day.

Both the American Jazz Museum and Negro Leagues Baseball Museum will be open and offering $8.16 admission.

If you don’t already have a Kansas City shirt (though really, can you have too many?), grab a special 816 Day t-shirt at the festival.

The whole event is an opportunity to bring together the people of Kansas City and spread more Kansas City love.

How to ace 816 Day

A group of people in black 816 Day shirts at City Market.
Downtown Neighborhood Association
Representatives of the Downtown Neighborhood Association at the 816 Day celebration at City Market in 2019.

Downtown Neighborhood Association shares many of the 816 Day events scheduled for August 16.

Some celebrations started early -- including 816 Day Scavenger Hunt Bingo, which kicked off earlier this month and includes stops at local restaurants, businesses, coffee shops and Art in the Loop installations.

Plan ahead and build a KC-tastic day while discovering something new about the city. There is no purchase necessary to participate in the scavenger hunt bingo, and all ages are welcome. (Though purchasing something from local businesses when you ask for your bingo sticker is good KC karma.)

Bring your completed bingo card (with different prizes for blackout, round robin, and single row) to the day’s final event. At City Market, you’ll find Art in the Loop performances from 5:30 - 8 p.m. with Traditional Music Society: Soundz of Samba, Circus Scorpius, and Underground Homies. The performances are free to attend.

A passenger disembarks from a streetcar with artwork designed by artist Hector Garcia. Jazz: The Resilient Spirit of Kansas City, is part of the Art in the Loop series, an annual celebration of area artists with art installations along the Kansas City Streetcar line.
Julie Denesha
KCUR 89.3
A passenger disembarks from a streetcar with jazz-inspired artwork designed by artist Hector Garcia in 2021, as part of the Art in the Loop series.

Art in the Loop is a summertime festival in partnership with the Downtown Council of Kansas City and KC Streetcar. They also host the Garment District Grooves lunchtime concert series, which runs every third Wednesday of the month between April and October. This month’s concert happens to fall on 816 Day.

The shows are free, from 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m. and take place in the Garment District Place Parkat 8th and Washington. On August 16, Billy Ebeling performs, with the Chilakillers food truck nearby for your lunch time needs.

Snag a free 816 Day cup at select locations and fill it with an ice cream float from Fountain City Scoops and Floatsat the City Market.

Show your KC love

Mural on brick wall with "# KC LOVES" written in white script on a black background.
Libby Hanssen
KCUR 89.3
There are many ways to celebrate 816 Day and the people and places that make Kansas City unique.

There are tons of ways to get out and show your KC love, all month long.

It’s also a great day to check out some previous Adventures!to learn more about this great city. Learn about how Kansas City became the City of Fountains (and take a tour around the city’s many fountains).

Explore a new part of the 816 area with these beginner’s guides to a neighborhood or two (or three!), and while you’re at it, take a peek at these hidden gems around Kansas City. And if you want even more reasons to love KC, you’ll find them in the city’s stranger claims to fame.

On 816 Day, the United Way hosts a free Impact Bus Tour around nonprofits to learn about the work they are doing in the community. The tour starts at 9 a.m. at United Way of Greater Kansas City and lunch is provided. Register here.

Many businesses will participate with special day-of deals, like J. Rieger & Co., which has live music in the Electric Park Garden Bar, $8.16 drink specials, a photo booth and more. Follow 816Day's Citywide Crawl to find more 816 deals around the city, including the Kansas City Jukehouse, SMAXX & Velvet Freeze Daiquiris, Niecie's Restaurant, Wah Gwan, and Social Waldo, among others.

Cheer the Royals as they take on the Mariners on August 16, with tickets starting at $13.

Extend your 816 Day party (and really, does the party ever need to end?) and see the Kansas City Currenton August 18 at Children’s Mercy Park. While sure, technically, the Current play in Kansas City, Kansas, their new stadium is being built in KCMO, right on the banks of the Missouri River.

Regardless, we’re not that far off from 913 Day on September 13, a holiday to enjoy what the other half of the metro area has to offer. (Read about Wyandotte County’s inaugural 913 Day festival from KCUR contributor Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga.)

In October 2023, the North American Numbering Plan Administrator (NANPA) plans to add 975 as another local area code for the Kansas City, Missouri, area, in addition to 816.

Will this change 816 Day? Probably not, as other cities with multiple area codes just pick the day that works best for them, like 312 Day in Chicago (which was instigated by local brewery Goose Island), 314 Day in St. Louis (which also happens to be Pi Day), or 404 Day in Atlanta (one of the earliest make-your-area-code-a-holiday adoptees).

After all, the most important part of the day — whenever you celebrate it — is celebrating the people and traditions unique to your particular city.

Originally from Indiana, Libby Hanssen is a freelance writer in Kansas City. She is the author of States of Swing: The History of the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra, 2003-2023. Along with degrees in trombone performance, Libby was a Fellow for the NEA Arts Journalism Institute at Columbia University. Learn more at Proust Eats a Sandwich.
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