Can we talk?
It’s time to lower the flag to half mast and admit that one of Kansas City’s most highly touted annual events is well past its prime…
For 88 years the vaunted Country Club Plaza has strung mostly old-fashioned Christmas bulbs along the outline of its Spanish style edifices and labeled it a world class sight to behold.
Generations of we locals have pointed to the Plaza lights with awe and pride, boasting of it to people worldwide.
But let’s not forget that when the tradition began there was no ceremony, no pomp and circumstance – just a single strand of colored bulbs stretched across a single building.
Five years later somebody decided to make a “ceremony” of it and hype the mere decorating of a local shopping center as a not-to-be-missed annual event.
To put that all in perspective here’s some of the other stuff that was making the headlines in the year 1925 when the Plaza lighting tipped off.
The first motel opened in California; Sears Robuck opened its first store; “The Great Gatsby” was published as was Adolph Hitler’s book Mein Kampf. Oh yeah, and Mount Rushmore was dedicated.
Little wonder the Plaza lights didn’t garner much if any attention.
Yet from that humble start the lighting grew into a Thanksgiving tradition that attracts thousands to the Plaza.
How many thousands?
Because Cowtowners are given to exaggeration, the owners of the Plaza conspired with a complacent local news media to hype the event as a phenomenon that drew upwards a quarter of a million attendees.
Until 2003 when UMKC statistics professor Zeng Yong’s students and volunteers joined forces with Waldo businessman Gary Evert to – for the very first time – actually count the crowd.
Net result: 30,000 and change.
The Plaza immediately backed away from the bogus crowd numbers and ceremony sponsor KCP&L ditched its 200,000-plus crowd boasts.
Which brings us to the heart of the matter…
And that’s the sad reality that stringing old fashioned Christmas lights doesn’t cut it in the 21st Century. Continue reading