Community nurtured at October PHest in Pendleton Heights

Abby Hoover
Managing Editor

The Pendleton Heights neighborhood was reminded what community means on Saturday when neighbors, vendors, artists, volunteers and children in search of pumpkins gathered on Lexington Avenue for October PH-est.

The event, hosted by the Pendleton Heights Neighborhood Association (PHNA), brought together both locals and first-time visitors to the area. The highly-anticipated event filled the Pocket Park and PH Coffee’s parking lot, and closed Lexington Avenue from Garfield to Ord.

The festivities were scaled up from last year’s event, which, due to COVID-19, was one beer tent in the Pocket Park. PHNA President Chris Binkley anticipates the annual event will expand even more in years to come.

“I think there’s a lot of opportunity to grow it a little further down, a little further that way, and have even more vendors,” Binkley said. “So this is, hopefully, a year where we can give people a taste of what the vision was, to make kind of a cadence of an annual event that’s in the fall for kids, family friendly, where we showcase a little bit of stuff from the Northeast. But my vision is to grow it to reflect more of a higher quality and larger event.”
The neighborhood association sold t-shirts, merchandise, books of neighborhood history, and held a raffle for neighborhood gear.

FMK Social Gallery, based out of 2202 Lexington Ave, sponsored and organized the music lineup for the day, bringing in Pendleton Height resident Matt Hamer of Mr. Golden Sun, JC The New King of Funk, and more.

The neighborhood association sent out a call for food trucks and rented inflatable obstacle courses from Jose Fiestas on 9th Street.

Johnson Farms in Belton, Mo., donated pallets of pumpkins for visitors to carve at the festival or take home.

“We were going to pay for them, but they were like, ‘What’s it for?’ and they just gave it to us for free,” Binkley said.

They spread the word about the festival through neighborhood newsletters, a story in the Northeast News, and on Facebook.

“I think next year what we’ll try to do is maybe like a mailer to every house within a certain radius,” Binkley said. “And then word of mouth.”

The event was pet-friendly and family-friendly, and had something for everyone.

“But really, the whole point – and what’s already been accomplished – is I have seen faces that I know are my neighbors, that I have not seen in months,” Binkley said. “So it’s really an excuse to just get out of the house. It’s a high of 66 and sunny, not a cloud in the sky.”

PH Coffee, which has been hosting a Halloween pop-up bar, had its spooky cocktails and local brews available, and plenty of their recently debuted salads and sandwiches to nourish customers. Food trucks like The Spice Girls, Torres 12th Street Tacos set up on Lexington Avenue, giving visitors a taste of their specialties.

Stewards of the Pendleton Heights community garden and orchard sold hot dogs to raise money for necessary improvements and maintenance. Now, they’re busy readying the spaces for winter.

“We actually got to partner with Missouri Organics on Chouteau, and they let us dump brush, like all the viney tomatoes and all of that,” Steward Whitney Barnardo said. “Clearing all of that, amending the soil with some good topsoil, and then sometimes we put down hay.”

The hay bales from the pumpkin patch will serve a second purpose, protecting the garden as it hibernates through winter.

“What we’re raising money for, we want to redo the compost area,” Barnardo said. “We’re just doing a lot more growing so inevitably that creates more garden refuse. We’re going to do about 45 feet of fencing, and we want to have a couple of different spots to have brush that just needs to be removed and compost that needs to be turned.”

They also hope donations will fund a mural for their garden, which sits at the corner of Brooklyn Avenue and Minnie Street.

The Kansas City, Mo., Fire Department was on the scene, giving tours of Truck 3 to children and passing out information packets to parents.

“They can do a house checklist, there’s different things that they should do for fire safety, there’s a number that they can call for smoke alarms so we can get them free smoke alarms,” Public Outreach Firefighter Chris said.

“And then also, we started a hands-on CPR class that we’re trying to get community groups, organizations. Like, the other day I went and talked to Big Brothers Big Sisters, and they’re interested in us coming in and doing something with them.”

A staple of weekends in Pendleton Heights, Art Garden KC gathered on both Saturday and Sunday this weekend, with artists and small business owners offering their work for sale.

Art Garden founder Margarita Friedman is not humble about the steady growth of their free, weekly event. They started in March with three or four artists gathering in an empty lot, and have grown to over 50 on some occasions. She envisions it even bigger, taking up a whole block or a park someday.

“I knew, it is a certainty I had that we were going to start with very few, and then we would move to a park as soon as possible, and then we were going to be growing so much that we will have the support of the community,” Friedman said. “We are going to be a permanent force in the neighborhood that unites everybody.”

She’s hoping to one day be supported by Parks and Recreation or the City government. It’s important to her to keep the events free for artists so they can gain recognition and sell their work, but she knows they bring their smaller pieces or prints to Northeast.

“Artists still come here, knowing that they are not going to sell, because they are building community and they love the feeling that every Sunday, they’re showing their work,” Friedman said. “The painters are here getting better. So, you come here and I can see in a month how they have improved their skills, just by continually painting.”

One day, she hopes to take them to some of the city’s wealthier neighborhoods with their larger works, or even expand to other cities, organically.

“First you bring the artist together, and then you start like we did, five cats meowing on an empty lot,” Friedman said. “Then, you are going to grow. Finally, the artists have to share their skills and knowledge and help each other.”

Tracy Thompson started her business, Pretty Wing Magic, during COVID-19, and she’s now grown her inventory to sell bath salts, smudge sticks, incense, and candles.

“The candles come with a QR code on the back, you can scan it and there’s a music playlist to go with the scent,” Thompson said.

She started setting up at ArtGarden about a month ago, and aside from her website, pop-ups are her main business.

“If I didn’t have events, I would have no business,” Thompson said. “They help me get my products out there, just word of mouth, networking. I’ve met so many cool creators in this space that I’m trying to build friendships. We look out for each other, we’re building our own community out here.”

Casey Guerra sets up at Art Garden every week, and she’s been looking for all the small opportunities that she can go to regularly. She used to travel further, but with COVID, she’s staying closer to home. As an artist in a pandemic, free opportunities to share her work make a huge difference.

“We have somewhere to go, and we have an outlet and I have gotten so many more custom commissions just from being here that I am really doing well at the moment,” Guerra said. “ So I really appreciate this venue and others like it.”

Art Garden has collected artists who work in a variety of mediums, from skull-shaped incense holders for Day of the Dead, to boho decor, pottery and painting. Their talents are a representation of the culture and creativity found in Pendleton Heights.

October PH-est brought together neighbors, artists, performers and vendors for an event years in the making, and a sense of community was restored after long months of social distancing and cancelled events.

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