Our city has changed a lot since the 1860s, but one thing is for sure: We know how to throw a party. The ingenuity of Kansas Citians is evident in the way we do things. This picture, for instance, shows crowds of people at the public square (present-day City Market), then a catch-all for commerce, horse trading, medicine shows, political rallies, and circuses. Here the balloon ascension was part of a lavish celebration of Independence Day, 1868. Often, merchants who aimed to increase the number of shoppers at their stalls in the public market would hire trapeze artists to perform under suspended balloons in the sky.
Talk about savvy (albeit dangerous) ingenuity.
Despite the Town of Kansas consisting then of little more than a few rows of crowded buildings along muddy and unpaved roads with boards for sidewalks slung between raw bluffs and deep ravines covered thick with brush, ploys such as the trapeze artists made commerce in the River Market thrive for decades. The novelty of the trapeze artists, with the help of places such as the Gillis Opera House (5th and Walnut) that brought in more than 1,700 people on its opening night on Sept. 10, 1883, encouraged the surrounding communities to remain interested in this wild neighborhood just south of the river.
So throw down those bottle rockets and make our foremothers and fathers proud! Don your bedazzled leotard and get to flying through the skies under suspended balloons.
Talk about fireworks in the sky!