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6 Happy Things To Do In Kansas City This Weekend

William P. Gottlieb
Library of Congress

It’s time for the weekend, which means attendant smiles can’t be far behind.

Ways to get happy include a cheerful mix of music, comedy and sports designed to stir pleasant memories, tickle fancies and raise any flagging spirits.

Grin and wear it!

1. Lionel Richie with Mariah Carey

When Lionel Richie co-founded the Commodores in 1968, he started out as the funk/soul group’s saxophone player. Then he began writing big hits, first with the Commodores (“Brickhouse,” “Three Times a Lady,” “Easy”) and later as a solo act (“Hello,” “All Night Long,” “Dancing on the Ceiling”). Richie’s 1980 duet with Diana Ross, “Endless Love,” has never stopped melting hearts. And, in 1985, he co-wrote a not-so-little ditty with Michael Jackson by the name of “We Are the World.” Join Richie on his current “All the Hits” concert tour, where one sing-a-long after another is the happy norm. 

Sunday, 7 p.m. Sprint Center, 1407 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo.; tickets: $27.95-$247.95.

2. Paola Roots Festival

A generous array of roots music – from bluegrass to blues-rock – permeates this annual small-town music fest. Friday night’s headliner is sturdy Texas troubadour Stoney LaRue, while Saturday night’s main attraction is the Los Angeles band Vintage Trouble, whose great big groove has shared stages with the Rolling Stones, the Who and Queen guitarist Brian May. Plus there’s a barbecue cook-off, kids activities and enough arts and crafts vendors to make you want to start a new hobby.

Friday, 5:30 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m.; Paola Park Square, 915 N. Pearl St., Paola, Kan.; tickets: $15 (Friday), $20 (Saturday), ages 10 and younger free.

3. Charlie Parker Celebration: Jazz Tour and 21 Sax Salute

Late, great jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker, who grew up in Kansas City, experienced his share of well-documented personal problems. But it’s his magnificent musical legacy in the face of life’s challenges that inspires those who participate in the city’s annual Charlie Parker Celebration. On Saturday, there will be a Parker-centric walking tour of the historic 18th and Vine Jazz District (led by jazz guru Chuck Haddix) and a 21 Sax Salute at Parker’s graveside in Lincoln Cemetery. Join some of this town’s best jazz musicians in paying respect to a revolutionary artist whose amazing gift just keeps on giving. Thank goodness for old records.

Saturday, 9:30 a.m., tour starts at American Jazz Museum, 1616 E. 18th St.; noon salute at Lincoln Cemetery.

4. Babe Ruth’s Baseball – Played the 1920s Way!

The Kansas City Men’s Senior & Adult Baseball League will adhere to the Major League Baseball rules of 1929 in a contest recalling the era when homerun king Babe Ruth happily fueled the National Pastime and the collective imagination of millions. However, one of Babe’s ways that almost certainly won’t be followed by the players: Eating a dozen or more hot dogs before the first pitch. Those in the stands feel free!

Saturday, 4 to 7 p.m.; Herman Laird Park, 11500 Johnson Drive, Shawnee, Kan.; admission: free.

5. Kool & the Gang

Classic funk and r&b band Kool & the Gang’s 1980 smash, “Celebration,” has made more people happy than any other song since. To be honest, I have no idea if that’s true, but it makes me happy to think so. For sure, you’ll be happy, if you’re dancing in the crowd at Kool & the Gang’s Friday night show in downtown KC. 

Friday, 8 p.m.; KC Live! Block Stage at Kansas City Power & Light District, 13th and Walnut streets, Kansas City, Mo.; tickets: $20.

​6. Arsenio Hall

Perhaps the happiest image of Arsenio Hall was seen in 1992, when the affable comedian appeared totally wowed by Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton playing the saxophone on “The Arsenio Hall Show.” Although Clinton lasted a full eight years in the Oval Office, Hall’s late-night talk show didn’t make it halfway through Clinton’s first term. Hall pressed on in other entertainment endeavors, always looking, well, happy. He’ll aim to do the same for his Kansas City fans in back-to-back stand-up comedy shows. See both and be twice as happy!

Saturday, 8 and 10 p.m.; Argosy Casino, 777 N.W. Argosy Parkway, Riverside, Mo.; tickets: $30.

Brian McTavish is a regular arts and culture contributor for KCUR 89.3. You can reach him at brianmctavish@gmail.com

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