Wow, what an impressive July 4th event pulled off on relatively short notice by the City of Platte City. Fantastic turnout for a day of family fun on the downtown square Sunday. It was an example of small town America at its finest. When something goes so well and feels so right for so many, how can you not want to do it again? Breaking news: Looks like the chances are good it will become an annual thing.
“Nothing official yet, but I think we’re going to try an annual event on the Fourth of July,” Mayor Tony Paolillo told me on Tuesday.
Love it. It will be good for Platte City. Good for the residents. Good for community spirit. Good for the business community. With more time to prep and now that the event has shown it has some drawing power, I’d anticipate more vendors and businesses wanting to become a part of it, in particular since next year July 4 will not be a Sunday. Those of us at The Landmark had a great time and are thankful to have been asked to be a part of all the fun, particularly at the dunk tank.
It’s certainly good to see the city is seriously considering making a July 4th daytime celebration an annual thing and I’m glad to see the city is already asking for anyone interested in volunteering at future events to contact City Hall. Maybe also nudge the local chamber of commerce to be sure they’ve awakened after COVID.
City officials were hoping for a turnout of about 800 people. They got 2.5 times that–with an estimated 2,000 to 2,200 folks rolling in and out during the four-hour celebration that included free menu options from several food trucks, all courtesy of the city.
Here’s a post from a commenter on the Platte County Landmark’s Facebook page that I believe summed it up pretty well: “I thought it was a great event. Loved how ‘hometown’ it felt. Hope you do it again!” said Ione Roe.
On Sunday toward the end of the celebration, I had a conversation with a couple from Parkville who had been following The Landmark’s advance coverage of Platte City’s event and decided to come up for a taste of the celebration. They were impressed, especially with the “free” aspects of the celebration for kids activities and such. Compared to a carnival where parents would have to spend considerable dollars for the kids to enjoy rides and related activities, “this is the way to go,” they said.
What’s impressive about the 2,000 turnout is that it was an organically-generated crowd. What do I mean by that? Basically what I mean is there was not a school group of 100-200 kids there to perform. The secret to guaranteeing yourself a crowd at a community festival is to ask, like, a couple hundred school kids to perform because that means a couple hundred sets of parents are going to have to get those kids to the show. Add in some interested aunts and uncles and grandparents, and boom, you have fertilized yourself a crowd. This celebration had nothing of that sort. This crowd was grown organically. Everybody who came was there of their own volition. They weren’t there to transport their kids to a school obligation.
The enticement of free food, of course, played a major role. City officials are hinting that if this does become an annual event the city likely will switch things up as far as the free food options. Expect food trucks to be a “pay” option for attendees in the future, while the free food option will more than likely be along the lines of burgers and hot dogs, less expensive and easier to serve rapidly in large quantities.
The only negative about the larger-than-expected turnout is that it resulted in long lines at the food trucks. But honestly, nobody seemed to mind all that much. I can tell you the 30 minute wait for the Big Daddy’s and Son food truck on Sunday was well worth it to me.
“It was the largest July 4th in Platte City in several years,” remarked DJ Gehrt, city administrator.
Oh, there is no doubt about that. Back in the 80s, some community groups held Zed Martin Founder’s Day celebrations in Platte City around the Fourth of July. But as somebody who hit all those as a young newspaperman, I can tell you those events were not even close to being in the same category crowd-wise as Sunday’s shindig.
By the way, I can remember a Zed Martin Founder’s Day celebration in the 1980s in downtown Platte City that included a “best legs” contest. One of the contestants? None other than longtime downtown business owner Shirley Kimsey.
Though her downtown dress shop has long been closed, Shirley’s still around. If you see her, ask her about that legs contest from 40 years ago.
From a public relations point of view, this thing was a home run for new Platte City Mayor Tony Paolillo, who is now been in office for about a year. I’m willing to overlook the fact the mayor dumped a huge cooler of ice into the dunk tank while I was on the plank.
Paolillo put in his time on the dunk tank, leading off that event, and was sent for a plunge repeatedly by youngsters in a long line.
Hours later, Paolillo was assisting city staff in clearing the street after the four hour event. “We have a full service mayor. He was helping us clean up,” Gehrt remarked.
Paolillo, who typically keeps a low public profile, had this to say Tuesday when I reached him by text: “I would like to thank all the people who came out and made this a great event. I would also want to thank all the city staff and their families who volunteered their time to work the event. Without them, we could not have done it.”
City officials are right when they say this thing is too big to expect it to be run solely by city staff and their families.
From Gehrt: “A final word. The dunk tank was way too popular. I was worn slick climbing back up on the seat about 45 times.”
Platte City Police Chief Joe Wellington and another Platte City officer recently visited Compass Elementary to meet with first graders as part of the summer school program for the young students. “Normally the first question everybody asks is “Have you ever shot anybody?” Wellington said. “But nobody asked that,” he said of the multiple classes of first graders the police officers spoke with. So, chief, what was the one thing every class of first graders asked you?
“They wanted to know if we eat donuts.”
(First graders cracking wise about cops and donuts. . are they campaigning to become Landmark columnists? Email your resume to firstname.lastname@example.org)