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Nick’s Picks | It’s Time to Talk Turkey

Your Outlook for the Holiday Week

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Above image credit: "Kansas City Week in Review" host Nick Haines. (John McGrath | Flatland)

For many of us, but certainly not all, this is going to be a short week.

As we mark the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday, many Kansas City employers are giving additional time off to their workers. That includes school districts that are adding what they’re calling well-being or recovery days.

Noting the stress that teachers and staff have been under during this pandemic, the Kansas City School District is extending the Thanksgiving break. That means no school today or tomorrow, or for the rest of the week.

For parents who may now be in a bind trying to find care for their children, the district is partnering with several organizations to provide free day care.

Kansas Vax Session 

Kansas lawmakers are back in Topeka this week. The Republican-controlled legislature is set to convene a special session today to work on ways to limit the impact of new Biden administration vaccine mandates. 

One proposal would ensure those fired for refusing the vaccine are given state unemployment benefits. The second would block employers from probing workers about their beliefs if they seek a “religious exemption.” 

Some of the state’s biggest business groups are already objecting. The Kansas Chamber of Commerce says the unemployment benefit provision alone could cost the state upwards of $600 million. 

It’s not certain how long the special session will last. But it’s already historic. This is the first time in Kansas history that lawmakers have overridden a governor to launch a special session.

Booster Shots

The governors of Kansas and Missouri have now opened up COVID booster shots to anyone over the age of 18.

But will it spark a divisive new debate over what it means to be “fully vaccinated?”

Will you now need to have a third jab in order to fly, go to concerts or attend some sporting events?

The governors of Connecticut and New Mexico are already signaling plans to adjust the definition of “fully vaccinated” to mean three shots.

It’s already happening in Europe. 

Austria now declares that “full vaccination” status expires nine months after the second dose. In the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson has indicated Britain will adjust its definition of “fully vaccinated” to include boosters by the end of the year.

Strickland Ruling

Is this the week the fate of Kevin Strickland will finally be decided?

Strickland is the Missouri man who has spent the last 43 years in prison for a triple murder that the Jackson County prosecutor claims he didn’t commit.  

A judge recently heard fresh evidence in the case but has yet to make a ruling.

Strickland was arrested at the age of 18. He is now 62 years old.

If Strickland is exonerated, his imprisonment will mark the longest known wrongful conviction in Missouri history.

Plaza Lighting Ceremony

Kansas City’s biggest Thanksgiving tradition returns this week.

Last year, you were actively told not to come to the Country Club Plaza for the annual holiday lighting ceremony. COVID restrictions pushed the event online.

This Thursday, it’s anything goes.

Players with the newly named KC Current women’s soccer team will flip the switch on the more than 80 miles of lights that, for some, marks the official start of the holidays in KC.

If you’re thinking of heading down there, the festivities start at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving.  But the official “flipping on the lights” won’t take place until 6:52 p.m.

Right afterwards, there’s a free concert and fireworks show.

If battling crowds isn’t your thing, you’ll have plenty of chances to see the illuminations in person. 

Once lit, the lights will stay bright through January 9th.

Country Club Plaza holiday lights
This year’s Country Club Plaza lighting ceremony will be an in-person event this year after being remote only last year due to the pandemic. (Courtesy | Visit KC)

Mayor’s Christmas Tree

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas may be reading this and asking, “What about me?”  Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten about you.

The mayor’s annual Christmas tree lighting is this Friday.

Mayor Lucas and Kansas City Chiefs player Tyrann Mathieu will flip the switch on the 100-foot Douglas fir at 5:30 p.m. at Crown Center Square. 

Members of the Kansas City Chorale will perform during the ceremony.

Speaking of Christmas Trees…

We’ve gone through lots of product shortages during this pandemic. It started with toilet paper and then moved to computer chips that upended the entire auto industry.

Now add Christmas trees to the list of items facing shortages and higher prices this year.

Apparently, extreme weather events including wildfires, droughts and floods have pummeled tree growers this season. Even artificial trees, a majority of which are made in China, could be stuck overseas due to supply chain bottlenecks. 

And if you do happen upon your perfect “Tannenbaum,” experts say you can expect to pay 20-30% more for it, whether it’s real or fake.

Of course, we in the media love to make you anxious, so I am confident in the next few weeks we’re also going to tell you how your Valentine’s flowers and boxes of candy are going to be hard to come by.

In fact, let me get straight to the headline: 

If you haven’t already bought your special someone their Valentine’s gift, you’re already too late.

You have been warned.

KC Broadway Series Returns

Is this the last arts organization to make its return?

Pretty much every arts group in the metro has now found a way to bring back audiences after going dark during the pandemic. 

Now the Kansas City Broadway Series is coming back with its first show since COVID frightened away theater-goers almost two years ago.

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s mega-hit “Hamilton” had been scheduled to open the season but that was pushed back amid continuing pandemic health concerns.

In its place comes “Tootsie.” 

Remember the movie with Dustin Hoffman?

The musical comedy starts its run at the Music Hall this Tuesday night.

Week in Sports

Many people love to watch sports over the Thanksgiving weekend. 

But after demolishing the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, you’re going to have to wait to see the Kansas City Chiefs in action again.

This is a bye week for the Chiefs. 

If you want to see if Kansas City can extend its four-game winning streak, you’re going to have to wait until Sunday, Dec. 5. That’s when the Chiefs take on the Denver Broncos. It will be a noon game at Arrowhead.

But there’s plenty of action to enjoy this week as Sporting KC continues its playoff run.

Kansas City’s professional soccer franchise is heading to the conference semifinals this weekend.

Kickoff is Sunday at 2 p.m. at Children’s Mercy Park.

We know Kansas City will be playing. We just don’t know who they’ll be playing against. 

It will be either the Seattle Sounders or Real Salt Lake. They play their first round match in the MLS Cup Tuesday night.

Sporting Kansas City soccer field.
The pitch at Children’s Mercy Park, where Sporting KC will host the conference semifinals of the MLS Playoffs Sunday afternoon. (Courtesy | Sporting KC)

No More ‘Pilgrim Run’

It may seem odd to some people, but there are thousands of Kansas Citians who like to wake up really early on Thanksgiving morning, lace up their sneakers and head on a punishingly long run. 

For more than a decade, one of those Thanksgiving traditions has been “The Pilgrim Run” that winds through Kansas City’s Hyde Park neighborhood. 

But not this year. 

Organizers of the annual 5K event have just announced they’re ditching the name. 

Instead of taking part in the “Pilgrim Run,” this year’s event is now being called the “Hyde Park Run.” 

You may notice ads and yard signs for the race have a line through the word “Pilgrim.”

So what’s led to the abrupt change?

Race organizers say they no longer feel comfortable, “perpetuating a holiday mythology that is disrespectful of and ignorant to the suffering caused by America’s systemic oppression of indigenous people.”

That’s the explanation on the group’s website. The annual Thanksgiving Day race is now in its 11th year.  

While I’ve not taken part in “The Pilgrim Run,” I am someone who has spent the last several years getting up really early on Thanksgiving morning and running a 5K. And I’ve even convinced two or three of my kids to join me. Please try to be forgiving. Chalk it up to the fact that I came from a country that didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving and so don’t know any better.

Nick Haines dissects the week’s most impactful local news stories, Fridays at 7:30 p.m. on Kansas City PBS.

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