Photos: KC Ethnic Enrichment Festival 2022
In the summer of 1976, Kansas City’s first Ethnic Enrichment Festival was held. Since those humble beginnings some 46 years ago, the festival has become an annual event held during the third full weekend of August.
Every year, thousands of local residents march under the many flags of the nations represented. They pass through the front gate and immediately look for their favorite food tent or wander back to the pavilion to watch the performances.
Most people give little thought to what goes on behind the scenes and why these many volunteers from over 60 different nations come together each summer. Estimates from 2019 show over 40,000 first-generation immigrants are in our community. Each tent represents an organization that is dedicated to giving back. Whether it’s in the form of scholarships for the children of immigrants or help to resettle refugees, the money goes towards the community.
When you speak to the volunteers working the various tents, you get a sense of tradition and pride. The food is traditional and often made from scratch. Families spend days preparing the enormous amount of product needed to feed the festival. And the same people come back every year to help out.
“Bing” Sakach is the former president of the Filipino Association of Greater Kansas City who brings retired grandmothers to make egg rolls, barbecue, and noodles. These women are backed by their daughters. Sakach stresses how important events like this are in supporting the families cared for by the Filipino Association.
Kessler Plowright has led the grill team for the Jamaican tent since 1989. He came out to help his mother who was having trouble keeping up with the food preparation as the festival became more popular. That first year, he had to inform the line that it would be 40 minutes until they would have more food. He watched as the entire line sat down on the ground and patiently waited.
Now, 33 years later, he prepares over 800 pounds of chicken and 200 pounds. This year, Plowright’s great-nephew also joined the team, along with family and neighbors, to carry on the tradition.