A handful of volunteers gathered earlier this week at Reconciliation Services, a social service agency at 31st Street and Troost Avenue in Kansas City, Mo., they ate stuffed grape leaves around a small table, talking about what needs to be done for Saturday’s 10th annual Troost Ave Festival. But, not much comes up.
"We need to figure out the color of our T-Shirts,” says Rae Peterson, the de facto group leader. The T-shirt will bear an image donated by local artist D.J. Burton.
Peterson has been with the festival since the beginning. It evolved, she says, out of a focus group at the Kauffman Foundation in 2004.
“Seven white people were sitting around talking about what ... what to do about Troost as a racial dividing line. I suggested we close down the street and throw a party,” says Peterson.
That first year, she said, someone asked her if they had enough money. She said no, that they were relying on "social capital."
The festival is organized around issues of concern to the community. It has as its manifesto a list of guiding principles including justice, health, education, art and the environment.
It seems these principles provide about as much structure as the festival ever has.
"I like to see how people self-organize," Peterson quips.
Each year, vendors come to the strip of Troost Aveune between 31st Street and Linwood and stake out a space. It’s first come, first serve. The only reserved space is for a performance stage on the southwest corner of 31st.
This year, there is an entertainment coordinator; performance artist Christina Hentzen says 25 groups have said they want to perform, among them singers, dancers and musicians. She took the job to create some order, but admits "it’s always changing until the last minute.”
A long list of service agencies, educators and food vendors will line the street. There’s a soap box for speechifying.
The city has given festival organizers $5,000, which covers necessities like portable toilets, trash, and security — everything else is donated or covered by volunteers.
The Troost Village Community Association, a not-for-profit, was established for legal purposes, but the festival is really about building community. Their motto is “neighbor celebrating neighbor.”
The 10th annual Troost Ave Festival kicks off at 12 p.m. on Saturday, April 26, with The Show Stoppers Community Drill Team marching down the center of Troost from Linwood to 31st Street.
This look at Kansas City's Troost corridor is part of KCUR's months-long examination of how geographic borders affect our daily lives in Kansas City. KCUR will go Beyond Our Borders and spark a community conversation through social outreach and innovative journalism.
We will share the history of these lines, how the borders affect the current Kansas City experience and what's being done to bridge or dissolve them. Be a source for Beyond Our Borders: Share your perspective and experiences east of Troost with KCUR.