If you hype, they will believe…maybe even come. So it is with the brief history of WaterFire in Kansas City, one of the duller, more overhyped events to hit the Cowtown.
First a few kind words about organizer Karen Holland.
Holland, who brought the Cow Parade to KC in the early 2000s – and for her trouble was pilloried by Star art critic Alice Thorson and pretty much every legit artist in town – is a well-intentioned woman. She truly believes that mixing burning pylons on an open sewer like Brush Creek with New Age music wafting through the air is a winner. Another Plaza Lighting Ceremony or Plaza Art Fair in the making. Hey, for Holland and a finite number of New Agers, it probably is.
And maybe this baby will grow and succeed despite its pretentiousness.
After all, we’re in year seven. More likely though, it’s just an excuse for some Kansas Citians to wander the Plaza on a festive fall night. In spite of the burning pylons you can’t really even see very well unless you plop down on the banks of Brush Creek because they’re several yards below the street level in the crick.
Know this however, Holland is no mathematician.
From the get go she’s put out inflated attendance numbers for the event in an attempt to magnify its luster to locals. After the first year the Star published a ridiculous Letter to the Editor from Holland claiming an unsubstantiated attendance figure that made it look like WaterFire had as many attendees as the Plaza’s hallowed lighting ceremony.
Trust me, it didn’t.
I can all but guarantee you after working with two separate teams of statisticians from UMKC and dedicated Waldo businessman Gary Evert to count the Plaza lighting crowd, that Holland’s number was not scientifically obtained.
Last year the Star allowed Holland to suggest that WaterFire expected around 30,000 to 35,000 people to attend. While that was an obvious stretch, it was only an estimate.
Today cub reporter Dugan Arnett at the newspaper stepped in it by “reporting” that more than 30,000 people attended WaterFire 2012. Arnett wasn’t around several years back when then editor Mark Zieman issued a dictum that no unsubstantiated crowd counts were to be reported. Unless they were small enough for the reporter to quantify / verify or actually count, they were to be attributed to a respected source or not reported at all.
Come on Dugan, check it out Saturday and see if you think it’s really as big as the Thanksgiving lighting blowout.