Local Happenings: The Ethnic Enrichment Festival - Kansas City’s Cultural Buffet
For many of us, our first introduction to another culture is its food. Each summer, Kansas City’s Ethnic Enrichment Festival lets us say hello to as many as we can.
The festival, brings together representatives of over 60 different countries, showcasing and celebrating the diversity that feeds Kansas City spirit. It’s one of the largest festivals of this kind in the country. Always the third full weekend of August, the Ethnic Enrichment Festival raises a city of tents in Swope Park, each offering snapshots or samples of a different nationality’s ethnic persona. Children can even get a “passport” to encourage them to visit every location.
Though the goal is to promote cultural heritage, there’s a reason this has been lovingly called the “Eat Something From Every Country” Festival. For many of the ethnicities participating, we only get to try the cuisine. Others bring traditional crafts, designs, or exports, giving a little more for the imagination to work on. Of course, just sampling the flavors of all these groups is enough to keep us coming back.
To see a bit more of the different cultures, claim a spot in the pavilion, around the festival stage. Ethnic dance studios, martial arts schools, and cultural organizations demonstrate the styles specific to their background—often with adorable children leading the way. Add in the decadent traditional or historical costumes, and it’s a visual delight that gives us a look at the different cultural personalities—at least a superficial look. There’s even an international fashion show on one day of the festival.
The event is in its 38th year, organized each year by the Mayor’s Ethnic Enrichment Commission. The group has been in action since Kansas City’s Bicentennial celebration, started by then-Mayor Charles B. Wheeler. The commission is actually involved in hundreds of outreach programs throughout the year to encourage ethnic identity and promote ethnic heritage, participating in other events and arranging presentations at schools, festivals, business, civic groups, and trade organizations. After all, there is far more to each of these nationalities than the dishes and fashions that we get to glimpse during the festival.
The Ethnic Enrichment Festival is a tapas bar of nationalities. It’s a delightful introduction to the richness of backgrounds that make up this city—and hopefully it will whet the appetite for us to explore those other cultures more deeply.
While visiting, take a drive around the diverse neighborhoods surrounding Swope Park. See what properties are available in the area on our website.