After a four-year hiatus, community members are once again invited to wander and explore a collection of local businesses dubbed the Tower East District for a special day of spring events.
Wanderfest is returning April 23 to the area near 31st Street and Gillham Road, shared organizers — and the sisters behind Two Tone Press — Angie Bayman and Michelle Dreher.
The festival started in 2016, Dreher said, as a way to highlight the newly-revitalized local business district, which is home to Two Tone Press, Cherry Pit Collective, Oddities Prints, Golden Stag Tattoo and Gallery, The Fix, Populuxe, and Brewer’s Kitchen, among others.
“We decided we wanted to somehow highlight all of the businesses in the area and get the word out about what’s happening over here,” she recalled. “There were so many different things and a lot of people were not aware.”
The most recent Wanderfest in 2019 brought out about 2,000 attendees, according to Dreher, which got organizers excited about moving forward with the next year’s festival.
“But then 2020 came and the pandemic, so we sort of got derailed,” she continued. “Then it took us a while — like it did with everyone — to get back on board. So now it’s time, where we were like, ‘OK, let’s bring it all back together and see if we can build this community back up.’”
“I feel like we’re all a little starved now for doing things,” Bayman added.
This year’s Wanderfest — the fourth — will feature open houses, tours, demonstrations, art, music, and food from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.. A map is expected to be available at many of the locations to guide attendees to activities throughout the district.
“We really encourage the business owners to do something different for the event,” Dreher added, “whether it’s a special or demos or having pop-up vendors, just to make it a little different than the average day.”
In their Print League KC space in partnership with BIG INK, a New England-based art education company, Bayman and Dreher will be featuring a large-scale traveling printing press — called the Big Tuna — on which artists will be printing oversize wood carvings.
“Over the course of the last couple of months, artists have been working on large-scale block prints,” Dreher explained. “And they’ll bring it here over that weekend and be printing on these large-scale block prints in the back. So we encourage the community to come and see what’s happening and see the prints being pulled.”
Some of the highlights, they noted, will be specials and Wanderfest-themed flash at Golden Stag Tattoo; a presentation of New Eras and Recollections by Kansas City Art Institute senior printmaking students at Golden Stag Gallery; vendors and makers at Cherry Pit Collective; specials at Oddities Prints; Peaches Fry Bread food truck; and live music at El Torreon.
“(The goal is) just to get to know this area and all the things that are happening around here,” Dreher said. It’s, I think, a very diverse community.”
Flavorpak is back
In addition to Wanderfest, the Flavorpak 30th Anniversary Jam is set for the same day in the neighborhood, Flavorpak artist Jeremy McConnell shared. From noon to 5 p.m. at 620 Linwood Boulevard, expect to see DJs — Ataxic, Platinum, Buddha Palmz, Jamel Rockwell, and Smooth C; beat makers — Brother Neves, Smooth C, SG, JKR70, and d’Jawnz; a creative market; live graffiti painting; breakdancing sessions by Buggin Out Crew; a Capoeira demonstration by Grupo Axé; and the Sugar Skull Grill food truck.
“For us, it’s always been to have fun, enjoy music, and bring together the community,” McConnell said of the goal of the Flavorpak Jam.
The event will also serve as the official release of Flavorpak 7: Art Attack — an independent art zine that debuted in 1993 and features art from McConnell, Aaron VG Sutton, Luke Rocha, William S. Willmott, David Hek Rogers, and Royal.
“We were always fine with being able to throw big warehouse parties back in the day,” McConnell recalled. “The good thing is it was always really diverse. People were like, ‘Man, I’ve never gotten to see these DJs and bands playing together.’ This one’s more hip hop, funk, and soul.”