Esther Honig

Freelance Reporter

Esther Honig is a freelance human interest journalist based out of Kansas City, Missouri. 

Born in San Francisco she is a graduate of Mills College for Women in Oakland, California and holds a B.A. in Spanish, Latin American Studies with a minor in Journalism.  

Her love for Public Radio began as a student contributor at KALW in San Francisco, California. She is a former intern for KCUR and continues to produce features on Kansas City's unique history and culture.

Esther Honig / KCUR

On a Monday night at the Lee A. Tolbert gymnasium in Kansas City, 80 dancers ages 6-25 gather for one of two weekly practices of The Marching Cobras. 

In gym shorts and sneakers, the dancers break a sweat running through their routines. They move to the beats of a group of young drummers banging out a rhythm loud enough to make your ears pound.

Carl Van Vechten / Creative Commons, Wikimedia

The prolific author best known for Their Eyes Were Watching God got her start as an anthropologist, listening to the stories and songs of former slaves in Florida in the 1930s. About fifty years later, a Kansas City woman found a connection with her own history and community in the voices Hurston captured. Her one-woman play about Zora Neale Hurston now takes her all over the world.

Guests:

Grape orchards on the Les Bourgeois Vineyards
Courtesy photo / Les Bourgeois Vineyards

The holidays are a great time to buy local, especially when it comes to picking out a great bottle of wine.

In the past 20 years, Missouri’s wine industry has grown in size and sophistication, with more than 100 wineries throughout the state.

On Tuesday's Up to Date, master sommelier Doug Frost, of Kansas City, Mo., will talk about one of his favorite subjects — local and regional wines.

Here are some of his top 10 picks out of Kansas and Missouri in the past year:

Kansas City Museum / KCUR

For millions of children in the United States, the holidays mean a visit to Santa Claus. The ritual is alive and well in the Kansas City area, but many families have another holiday icon, one specific to the region: The Fairy Princess.

The Fairy Princess is as much a part of the Kansas City holiday tradition as the Plaza lights, and has endured for more than eighty years.

Firefighter Kimble Cowan sits with station dog Lucky.
Esther Honig / KCUR

Sirens flash and wail as the 17-ton fire engine barrels down Independence Avenue in Kansas City's Historic Northeast. The four firefighters on board gear up in their flame retardant boots and jackets as they rush to the scene of a call.

“After 25 years I’ve seen just about everything you can image,” says firefighter Dan Utt, shouting over the blaring sirens. “Probably more than I’d like to recall to be honest.”

Esther Honig / for Harvest Public Media

On a warm October afternoon Veronica Jaramillo walks through rows of skinny apple trees on the orchard where she works as the sun sinks behind rolling Missouri hills.

The 30 year-old migrant farmworker reaches into a tree on the Waverly, Mo., orchard, and in one fluid motion, picks a Golden Delicious apple.

“I don’t like picking the Golden,” laughs Jaramillo. “They’re real delicate and you can bruise them with just your fingertips.”

Esther Honig

If you’ve ever driven around the historic 18th & Vine neighborhood in downtown Kansas City, Mo., you might have noticed what looks like a castle. It appears as though it housed Missouri royalty, but in fact this four-story structure, chiseled out of yellow limestone, was originally designed as the city jail.

Built in 1897 with the title of “workhouse castle,” it held mostly petty offenders, vagrants and debtors. As a part of their sentence these inmates were required to work. Female prisoners sewed prison uniforms and the men labored for the city’s Public Works Department.

Esther Honig / KCUR

Libraries have long been a place where new technologies can be seen and interacted with for the first time. In the 1980s, it was the personal computer. In the 1990s, the World Wide Web. Now, 3-D printers are becoming increasingly available in libraries across the country, and they are part of the transformation of the role of the institution. 

Esther Honig / KCUR

Ski jumping was developed in Norway and has been around since the early 19th century. In this event, skiers go down a take-off ramp, jump, and attempt to impress judges, who give points for style.

The Nordic combined, also developed in Norway, is a combination of cross country skiing and ski jumping.

John Lemieux / Flickr--CC

Olympic Freestyle skiing is a form of skiing that encompasses many different disciplines, including: aerials, moguls and ski cross.

For aerials, competitors ski straight down a mountain toward jumps that hurls them into the air. In the moguls competition, skiers race down a mountain, navigating around large bumps and perform small aerial jumps throughout the course.

Ski Cross is similar but the ski course involves natural terrain as well as artificial features like jumps, rollers or banks.  

Courtesy of Phil Dixon

In the late 1940s and early 50’s, Kansas City, Kan., native Tommy Campbell became the world’s number-two-ranked lightweight fighter. He won almost as many fights as Muhammad Ali, but his boxing career was cut short when he stood up against mob-controlled promoters and boxing matchmakers.

Author Phil Dixon, tells Campbell's story in his upcoming book Tommy Campbell: A Boxing Bout with the Mob.

Courtesy of Phil Dixon

Hallmark Cookie Exchang Feeds Artistic Community

Since the mid-1960's, Hallmark employees, past and present, and their spouses, have gathered each year - not for an exchange of greeting cards, but of cookies. KCUR’s Julie Denesha stopped by this year’s cookie exchange to bring us this audio postcard.

As Greeting Card Sales Decline, What Is The Future Of Hallmark?

Courtesy / EyeVerify

The Kansas City metro area has become home to numerous tech startups over the last few years, in part because of  Google Fiber, but also because low rental prices and large cutting-edge tech companies that call the city home.

Out of his single floor office space in Kansas City's startup village on 45th and Stateline, in Kansas City, Kan., Toby Rush gives a demo of the mobile phone application he’s developing, and it is like something out of a spy movie.

Sylvia Maria Gross / KCUR

Keeping Kids Safe And Engaged On School Buses

We discuss what it takes to be a school bus driver, how safe buses really are, and some innovative new programs to keep kids engaged while they're on the bus, and make the most of what’s usually down time.

Tell KCUR: Sporting KC Fans Get A Kick Out Of Connection To Team

Courtesy / Shane Evans

Kansas City author and illustrator, Shane Evans, will be at two events this weekend showcasing his new children's book and film, Chocolate Me!.

Chocolate Me! is a collaboration with actor and model, Taye Diggs, known for his roles in the original Broadway production of Rent and the movie How Stella Got Her Groove Back. Although Diggs often plays the hunk on the silver screen, as a kid he was teased for his looks.

Esther Honig / KCUR

KanCare Means Big Medicaid Cuts For Prairie Village Man

Finn Buller was born with a rare degenerative disease that has required a lot of complicated medical care including 24/7 in-home care. Now, as Kansas privatizes the state's Medicaid, Buller has found the services he depends on may be getting cut back.

Is KanCare Working?

Esther Honig / KCUR

For Kansas farmer Frank Reese, Thanksgiving is a sad holiday. He raises heritage turkeys, a breed very different than those you can buy at in a modern-day supermarket. Few farmers in this country are still raising that kind, and many breeds of the bird are endangered.

To finance his preservation efforts, Reese has to work two jobs, and sell hundreds of birds a year to slaughter.

On the farm

Jgoge / Flickr -- Creative Commons

Should entertainment venues, like theaters, sports arenas and music halls allow smartphone use?

More than 56 percent of Americans own smartphones and many use them at events like concerts and movies, or at least try to.

Rather than discourage or prevent their use, some venues in Kansas City are trying to take advantage of the new connectivity.

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media / KCUR

Chasing The American Dream In Rural Kansas And Missouri

For many generations, meatpacking plants in Kansas City were a place where immigrants found a foothold in U.S. society. Now, these plants have moved to rural areas, and the children of immigrant and refugee workers face more challenges in getting an education and pursuing their dreams. Harvest Public Media asked young people in Noel, Mo. and Garden City, Kan. about their aspirations.

Shane Linden / P.S. Linden Photography

How Haunted Houses Helped Develop The West Bottoms

In the weeks leading up to Halloween, thousands of people flocked to the historic West Bottoms neighborhood to tour Kansas City’s haunted houses. And while these houses are known as some of the oldest and most terrifying attractions in the country, you might not know that they’ve also been major contributors to the development of the former stockyards district. But not everyone thinks they should be part of the future of the West Bottoms.

Full Moon Productions

Each year the haunted houses in the West Bottoms open for the season during the months of September and October. Thousands of people flock to these enormous haunted attractions, which are some of the oldest and most successful haunted houses in the country.

But the haunted houses have brought more to the city than just terror. They have played a major role in the revitalization of the area. But as development takes off in the West Bottoms, some wonder whether seasonal entertainment like the haunted houses should be part of the area's future.

Wikipedia / Google Images -- CC

The West Bottoms is an industrial area directly west of downtown Kansas City, located at the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri Rivers.  It is one of the oldest areas of the city, and the original home of two of the region's key industries: beef and railroads.

Esther Honig / KCUR

Bistate Conversation About Youth Mental Health

Earlier this year, President Barack Obama called for a national conversation on mental health. Kansas City was chosen as one of ten cities to host a dialog in a program called Creating Community Solutions. On Saturday,  September 21,  two mayors and some 360 participants spent the day discussing how to improve mental health in metro Kansas City, particularly among young people. Hear voices of young people at the event.

Esther Honig / KCUR

About 50 penguins are settling in to their new home at the Kansas City Zoo, as the Helzberg Penguin Plaza opens to the public October 25.

Kansas City Zoo director Randy Wisthoff says one of his first ideas when he arrived here ten years ago was opening a penguin exhibit. From his experience at the Omaha Zoo, he knew they were crowd pleasers.

"We hate to say it in the zoo world, but they are cute," Wisthoff says. "They do look like people.  And they’re fun in water and out of the water."

Sylvia Maria Gross / KCUR

How One Kansas City Public School Is Improving Scores And Making Change

Visit James Elementary School, in Kansas City's historic Northeast neighborhood, which has seen substantial improvement in student test scores. So much so that the school recently landed on Missouri’s list of most-improved low-income schools. 

Courtesy / The Gonzalez family

An exhibit opens this weekend at the Kansas City Museum about Lupe Gonzalez, a local musician who became an icon in the Latino community. His name may not be recognizable, and that’s likely because Gonzalez never received national recognition.

Esther Honig / KCUR

Miss Gay Kansas City is one of the oldest female impersonation pageants in the country, and this year’s competition was the 32nd anniversary of the event.

The pageant was held on a Saturday night last month at Hamburger Mary's restaurant in Kansas City, Mo. Performer Sparkle Iman was Miss Gay Kansas City 2008, and served as head judge for the pageant.

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