How a political convention changed KC forever

In the 1920s there had been a push for municipal improvements, and those improvements had increasingly begun to run up against public opposition. The public was questioning, ‘Do we want to vote for something that requires bond funding? Where’s this money being spent?’ So civic leaders had the idea that a convention — a big, grandiose celebration of Kansas City — would get people to be more prideful. You think about a political convention and you’re typically thinking about the drama that’s unfolding on the convention floor. [City leaders] realize that they largely don’t care who got the nomination. What they were concerned about is the memory that people would take from their experience in Kansas City. And there was a good reaction. Some of the newspapers said, ‘I went to Kansas City with relatively little hope that they can handle an event of this magnitude, and I was pleasantly disappointed that they could do it.’ [City leaders] are sending out fundraising cards and they’re [asking not just for money] but they’re also asking, ‘Can we borrow your car? Are you willing to drive visitors around? If not, can someone else drive your car because we need it.’ They had buttons that they handed out to residents with the letters GOP on the top. On the bottom, they have the phrase, ‘I Live Here,’ and in the middle is a big ‘Ask Me.’ This call for volunteers explicitly said, ‘We don’t care if you’re Republican or a Democrat. This is a Kansas City initiative, and if you’re a Kansas Citian, you need to be involved.’ One of the things that Kansas City really wanted to do, and was successful at, was show that they weren’t a frontier boomtown anymore. There had been beautification of city parks and new residential neighborhoods which established potential not only for growth but also for an aesthetically appealing city that would attract residents and could grow and become a stunning metropolis.”

— Dustin Gann, contributing author of Wide-Open Town, as told to Kansas City

Categories: History, News