Clayre’s Kansas City adventures: First Friday

If you have never been or even heard of First Friday, you are missing out. First Fridays are one of the many gems within Kansas City.

On the first Friday of every month, and I mean every month, rain or shine, the Crossroads District of KC is alive with people. A plethora of food trucks gather in a parking lot on the corner of 18th and Main, with an assortment of food making sure everyone can get what they want.

In addition to food trucks, the artists of KC set up free galleries for passersby to look at. These booths are accessible to the artists for free with permission of the property owners.

If art is not your thing, then you can visit one of the many live bands scattered around the Crossroads. These bands are typically local bands who are looking to be heard. Like the artists, these band get a place to perform for free with permission from the property owners.

Moving away from the Crossroads a few miles west is one of my favorite places in Kansas City, the historic West Bottoms. Originally, referred to as the “French Bottoms,” the West Bottoms was a trading post between French fur trappers and Kansas Indians. It became a bigger trading post as steamboats traveled up the Missouri river and western immigration became more popular. Then, stockyards chose to develop there because of the thousands of train cars that came through that area with cattle.

Today, however, the historic buildings are used for shops selling antiques as well as homemade items such as jam, honey, paintings and just about anything else you could think of. The first weekend of every month is the most exciting time for the West Bottoms but most shops are open every weekend. During First Fridays weekend, there are food trucks parked along the streets incase you get hungry while shopping.

In these shops, as well as the antiques, there is other cool stuff like a bakery and even a restaurant. Inside of a store called the Rustic Vintage Rose, there was a gelato stand called Dellario Gelato. I was speaking with the owner and she told me that she was a Winnetonka alumni! She had been in DECA during high school and that inspired her to start her own business. She makes the delicious gelato from scratch all by herself. This time of year is my favorite to go to shopping here. They have antique halloween decorations like old, knitted pumpkins and gourds.

My favorite part of the West Bottoms is not the shops, but the buildings themselves. Originally used for grain mills and an assortment of other things, it’s amazing to see all these shops tucked away in the buildings. The buildings include narrow, creaky staircases and beautiful brick walls. Some even include grain shoots, huge antique safes built into the wall, and working freight elevators.

The West Bottoms is all about making something new out of something old. Kansas Citians took old buildings and turned them into new shops. The shop owners take old picture frames and new photos in them, some take old pieces of barn wood and make decorative signs out of them. A trip to the West Bottoms is not a bad way to spend a Saturday.