Emily Wheeler
Editorial Intern

The first annual Kawsmouth River Carnival will sail along the Missouri River June 8 at 3 p.m. Hosted by the Lucid Illusion Collective in partnership with Healthy Rivers Partnership, this river carnival —  a playful, Mardi Gras-style, art boat parade — will feature watercraft of all kind, including DIY trash boats. 

Map of the parade route

The carnival is set to begin at Kaw Point boat ramp (1403 Fairfax Trfwy, Kansas City Kansas) and conclude at Riverfront Park boat ramp (River Front Rd, Kansas City Missouri). 

Photo by Jaclyn Delbey

An estimated 50 watercraft will participate in the festival. This interactive event is free to all participants. Entries are welcome day of or you can RSVP your watercraft here: https://forms.gle/XMva7uegMGCa9UvK9 

Make sure to RSVP your watercraft here!

The river parade will feature common watercraft and DIY-built trash boats. “All varieties of watercraft are welcome as long as they are deemed safe,” said river carnival coordinator, Jaclyn Dalbey.  

Participants are encouraged to decorate their boats to create floating works of art. Prizes will be given to the best-dressed boat. This event will feature live music on the water by Kyle Little’s Riverbeat Rascals. 

Lucid Illusion Collective specializes in immersive art experiences in unusual venues.  The group is headed by queer artists Matthew Lloyd, Jaclyn Dalbey, and Kimmon Smutz. 

The Healthy Rivers Partnership promotes waterway care in Kansas City by hosting river clean-ups, education events, festivals, and restoration projects. 

Photo by Jaclyn Delbey

Prior to the festival, a boat decorating and building workshop was held where participants mastered trash boat building basics and expert fabrication. Those who did not attend the workshop are still encouraged to participate in the carnival. 

Trash boats are often made from recycled materials. “The sky is the limit for what you can dream up,” said Dalbey. Plastic rain barrels or styrofoam are most commonly used for flotation. Some trash boat rafts can be pedal-powered, manually paddled, or trolling motor-operated. 

Participants in the festival are required to wear life jackets and will receive a safety whistle. Safety support vessels from Healthy Rivers Partnership and KCFD will be on site to offer any necessary aid during the event.  

Spectators interested in viewing the parade on land are encouraged to cycle along the Riverfront Trail. 

Events such as the Kawsmouth River Carnival aim to restore the river’s role as a catalyst for community engagement, according to its hosts. While the city is seeing increased investment at Berkley Riverfront, there has been little change in how the community can access the river. 

Dalbey says she hopes the city will invest in a dock at the Riverfront Park boat ramp. “We have no place for people to keep boats out on the water during the warm months so we have very little river activity,”  Dalbey said.

The boat ramps available to the public are few and far between. “Some are just dirt that gets washed out, ridden with potholes and are barely maintained,” Dalbey said. 

In the event of poor weather conditions, the festival will reschedule for June 9 at 3 p.m.