Generally, it’s a good idea to be suspicious of anything that adds an extra “e” to the word “fair.” That pseudo-Olde Englishness just reeks of pretension. Make an exception, however, for the Kansas City Maker Faire at Union Station. In an age when most of us are surrounded by technology we don’t understand, there’s something wildly empowering about seeing these artists, crafters, scientists and engineers showing off projects they’ve built in their backyards and basements. For just a hint of the creative weirdness you’ll see, check out exhibitors like KCR2 Builders Club – dedicated to creating models of the famed droid from Star Wars.
The event is fun, cool and inspiring – especially for kids. On the subject of young ones, be sure to hit up the new KCPT fun zone for kids. Also don’t miss the Saturday night concert featuring R&B musician Anderson East, sponsored by KCPT and 90.9 The Bridge. You’re welcome.
Don’t look now, but the Royals are suddenly rocking, scoring in bunches and making a run in the AL Central. The club will try to stay hot against Toronto and it’s a weekend full of special promotions to boot. Friday night, there’s softball before the hardball. Specifically, the Big Slick Celebrity Softball Game. After KC and Toronto tilt, you’ll want to stay in your seat for post-game fireworks. Saturday, a day game, brings a celebration of Hispanic heritage with “Viva Los Reales.” The Royals will don special “Los Reales” jerseys and the pre-game festivities feature live music and a “salsa showdown,” with local Mexican restaurants competing to be named the city’s best salsa. Plus, the first 10,000 fans will receive a Los Reales BBQ Apron. Oh yeah, there’s also baseball.
Summer, at least for those who imbibe, is a time to drink beer. This weekend features two big celebrations of the bubbly brew. The 7th Annual Westport Beer Festival, from 5-9 p.m. on Saturday, will feature more than 80 beers from more than 35 regional, national and international breweries. Tickets are $35 in advance and include a commemorative tasting glass.
If you like your brew hyper-local, check out the 8th Annual KC Nanobrew Fest on Saturday from 2-6 p.m. at Berkley Riverfront Park. Admission includes unlimited tastings of over 200 home-brewed beers, a souvenir glass and a $5 food voucher. If you’re really ambitious, you can hit both. Just don’t drive.
If you love live theater, get to Starlight. For this weekend only – Friday through Sunday – the Mother of all Jukebox Musicals (pun intended) is coming to KC. “Mamma Mia,” the eighth-longest running show in Broadway history and winner of more awards than you can shake a stick at, is coming to the Starlight stage. Why, exactly, anyone would want to shake a stick at awards is a mystery, but that shouldn’t keep you from seeing this splashy, uplifting, silly and wildly popular show on its farewell tour. If that’s not enough musical theater, “Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical” is still on stage at Unicorn Theater and it’s your last weekend to see “The Who’s Tommy” at Musical Theater Heritage.
If you like your dancing without singing, be sure get to the 5th Annual Kansas City Dance Festival on Saturday night at The Folly. With most of the major dance companies on summer break, the annual event is your best bet to see some world-class movement.
If you like singing without dancing, you can choose from a smorgasbord of styles. Joe Jackson, pop punk pioneer, is at the Uptown on Friday night. In the decades since his landmark, “Look Sharp!” album came out, Jackson’s gone on to incorporate jazz and even classical elements in his work. Don’t worry, though. If the reviews of recent shows are any indication — and they are — Jackson is bound to play those deliciously snarky hits.
More music opportunities this weekend include hip-hop stars Bone Thugs N Harmony at the Crossroads, a make-up show for their rained-out May date. Blues fans will want to check out the aptly named Kansas City Street Blues Festival. Reggae fans will dig the also aptly-named Crossroads Jammin’ Reggae Fest on Saturday.
For an entirely different vibe, there’s Country Stampede. This three-day festival held outside Manhattan, Kansas, has a dazzling line-up of Nashville stars. Headliners on the main stage include hitmakers Big & Rich, recent Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Alan Jackson and, in my opinion, a future HOF inductee with the great Chris Stapleton. Check out this video of Stapleton’s mesmerizing appearance with Justin Timberlake at the 2015 CMA’s. Then go see him live.
—Hampton Stevens writes about the arts and entertainment for regional and national publications. He lives in Kansas City, Missouri, with his pit bull, Ginger. Follow him @HamptonStevens