Every year, Kansas City’s much maligned Brush Creek shines in the glow of firelight and artistic acts at the annual nighttime art festival called WaterFire. It’s a beautiful sight that almost makes you forget the waterway is nicknamed Flush Creek.
It’s an unfair nickname. The creek is beautifully landscaped and hardly smells on most days.
2014’s WaterFire has expanded to two dates: October 10 and 11. The October 10 performances include the creek fire pits, which are lit at an 8 p.m. ceremony. On dry land, the nationally syndicated radio program 12th Street Jump will record a live broadcast Kelley Hunt and the David Basse Orchestra from 7-8. After the blues pre-show and the lighting, the dry land acts will feature a showcase of local theaters.
Saturday’s events include what appears to be a dance lesson showcase from noon to 4, a folk music festival from 4-7 and the Waterfire Around the World Concert from 7-11.
The event is free to the public, and last year’s event was crazy busy, so definitely arrive early enough to get a seat, if you’re the type to park in one place for the night.
The real beauty of the event, though is that it’s a busy and random mix of fire dancers, fire eaters, acrobats, dancers and musicians. In years past, performances from Quixotic Fusion have been a centerpiece on a bridge over the creek. It’s like Brush Creek briefly transforms into a dark artistic wonderland, where you can wander from act to act and see something new along each block of the Plaza’s southern edge.
So how do they do it? Part of the fun of the event is just watching the fire pits along the creek. They set up these floating fire bowls, and the fire keepers travel up and down the creek silently in black boats, riders dressed in black, poking and feeding the fires silently as the performances continue through the night.
I’ll never forget a couple years ago when one of the boats loaded up with an opera singer, who rode up and down the creek between the flames belting out her dramatic song, lit by flames and floating between the crowds on either bank. It definitely left an impression, and I’ve been back each year – even though I’m not an opera fan.
The cacophony of music and crowds floating through the dark, lit with fire and the soft glows of the city around it really is an otherworldly experience.
Finally, I don’t know if it’s a regular feature of WaterFire or if I just got lucky to catch a one-time-only art piece last year, but be on the lookout for a wooden sculpture.
Last year, there was a wooden phoenix statue that was set on fire at the end of the event. The detailed sculpture was meant as a one-time art piece, as it was set on fire, and as the flames engulfed it, some mechanics inside sprung to life, and the mighty phoenix spread its fiery wings toward the sky.
Truly it was art for they pyromaniac, and I loved it.