Platte City’s July 4th celebration might become annual event
In fact, so much so that city officials are already seriously considering whether to make it an annual event.
That’s the talk from City of Platte City officials after the city-sponsored July 4th daytime celebration in downtown Platte City drew a much larger than expected crowd.
“Nothing official yet, but I think we’re going to try an annual event on the Fourth of July,” Mayor Tony Paolillo told The Landmark this week.
“I don’t know that it will be 100 percent the same concept,” the mayor added.
This year’s celebration offered free food and family activities, ranging from face painting, balloon artistry, a bounce house, an inflatable obstacles course, and a dunk tank that featured local personalities on the plank.
“If we do make it an annual event, no matter what we’ll have to find some volunteers. It’s too much for city staff to do on their own,” Paolillo said.
Sunday’s event had strong attendance, from its beginning at 10 a.m. until its close at 2 p.m. The offer of free food and water no doubt was a major incentive, as the city picked up the tab for all attendees at several food trucks who were on hand to serve it up. Free water was placed in ice-filled bins strategically positioned at various points in the downtown square.
City officials said they had hoped to attract 800 attendees. They nearly tripled that amount.
“We ended up with closer to 2,000 or 2,200 over the course of the day,” said DJ Gehrt, city administrator.
Platte City has traditionally put on a fireworks display on the night of July 4, but an organized downtown daytime event was a new approach this year.
“It was initially envisioned as a one-time event, but it was so successful that we will need to take a hard look as to whether or not this becomes an annual event,” Gehrt told The Landmark as Sunday’s celebration was wrapping up.
“It was great. It was more people than I thought were going to come out on a Sunday holiday,” said Paolillo. “I think people are tired of COVID and wanted to get out.”
“From the city’s perspective, it went very well. We had hoped to have 800 attendees and planned to accommodate a 50% surge up to 1,200 but actually ended up with around 2,000,” Gehrt remarked.
Food trucks served 1,250 people, Gehrt said.
A shuttle was offered for those who didn’t want/couldn’t park downtown. The shuttle ran back and forth from the main entrance of the Platte County High School and Main Street from 9:30 a.m. until the close of the event.
It turned out to be a wise–and popular–thing.
“The shuttle was an absolute necessity and was in constant use, and not just constant motion, as there were people on every trip. The limited parking in and around downtown makes it virtually impossible to have a downtown event of any size without distant parking and shuttle,” Gehrt said.
This year’s event, Gehrt explained, was developed by the mayor and board of aldermen to “bring the community together after the social isolation caused by the COVID pandemic.”
The public responded in a big way.
“It was great that so many community members had an opportunity to enjoy the day, however, lines and wait times were longer than anticipated. Thankfully, everyone, including the attendees, adjusted, cooperated and made it work,” Gehrt stated.
Participating food trucks included Rach Eats, Jadabay’s Tasty Kitchen, Kona Ice, Sweet and Savory Delites, Big Daddy’ & Son’s BBQ.
“The food trucks were a big hit, as everyone appreciated the opportunity to have a wider selection. But food trucks are not set up to serve at the speed achieved by the more traditional burger and hot dog options generally served at other community events,” Gehrt said.
The city administrator said if the July 4th event becomes annual, “it may be necessary to look at a combination providing a quick food option (like hot dogs and burgers and chips) with a plus-up option if attendees wish to purchase from food trucks.”
Live music was provided by Good Sam Band in front of the Platte County Courthouse from noon to 2 p.m. The band played “welcoming background music” for the event. When the band wasn’t playing, recorded music was provided courtesy of Howard Prost.
There was a dance performance by students of Beatniks Dance Studio.
The city also offered a “paint a plow,” where attendees could make a donation to put their handprint on one of the city’s snowplows. Donations went to Children’s Mercy, city officials said.
“The biggest takeaway from this year’s event is that it can only continue if it transitions from an event staffed solely by city employees and their families to an event with more community volunteers,” Gehrt said.
A late start on this year’s planning, due to questions over what COVID restrictions might be like, hampered recruitment of volunteers and sponsors, etc., Gehrt said.
“The uncertainty surrounding COVID restrictions in May and June combined with July 4th falling on a Sunday, made it very difficult,” he explained.
Anyone who would like to volunteer to help out at future events is encouraged to contact City Hall at 816.858.3046 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with their contact information and interest.
The city’s annual fireworks display was returned to the Platte County High School stadium area this year, after several years of being held at Platte Ridge Park north of Platte City. There was no stadium seating this year due to construction going on at the high school, but several viewing options were readily available in the area.
“I have not heard of any issues with the fireworks, although everyone always wants it to be longer. Most of the comments were that people were glad to see it moved back into town,” Gehrt said this week.