Will the last clued out Kansas City media member please turn off the lights…
And the hype.
Seven years after Waldo businessman Gary Evert and UMKC math and statistics professor Zeng Yong whittled down one of Kansas City’s most exaggerated myths – that the vaunted Plaza Lighting Ceremony draws more than a quarter million spectators – there are still those who would lead you to believe otherwise.
Take Kansas City About.com correspondent Mary Anne McNeish-Sharp.
The not-so-sharp shooter placed the Plaza Lights crowd count at a half million people.
The event "now draws over 500,000 people to the Country Club Plaza on Thanksgiving night,” McNeish-Sharp reports.
Let’s do some math…
That’s the equivalent of more than six soldout Chiefs games at Arrowhead – a venue with 22,000 parking spots against the Plaza’s 7,000. At football games that create monstrous traffic log jams in every direction. As opposed to last night’s free-flowing Plaza traffic, even on streets within a single block of the event’s main stage.
Which brings us to this year’s lighting ceremony…
Two weeks back one of professor Yong’s student’s Cyrus Ansari expressed an interest in revisiting the Plaza lights crowd count as a class project. A hastily convened meeting with Evert – who was to be out of town this Thanksgiving – was arranged and a game plan for when and how to enact the count was set forth. Professor Yong then assigned 15 students to a five team task force to conduct the count. Each team was given a specific portion of the Plaza to measure – including surrounding areas such the hill atop Wornall Road overlooking the Plaza and the J.C. Nichols Fountain area.
The students mustered outside the Kansas City Board of Trade at 48th and Main an hour and a half prior to the 6:50 p.m. lighting and the game was afoot.
Now let’s cut to the chase.
The official crowd count for this year’s KCP&L Plaza Lighting Ceremony: 21,096 attendees.
That’s right, less than 22,000 freezing folks – not counting Cyrus, yours truly and the student squad. Which is down 35 percent from the 32,605 Evert and Yong’s students counted in 2003, the 200,000 number sponsor KCTV‘s Web site claims the event "usually draws" and Channel 5 weather wonk Katie Horner’s misstatement last year about there being a half million people there.
Not that Horner couldn’t find anything to exaggerate about this year’s fandango.
"Suddenly it’s not so cold out here," she told viewers. "The wind has died down and it’s quite pleasant."
Hold it right there – it was freezing cold.
As evidenced by my frost bitten, 13 year old twin daughters Liza and Savannah who were reduced to more than an hour of, "Daddy can we go now?" pleading. "It was so cold I thought my toes were gonna fall off," Liza says.