Taxpayers attending a late-night bash at Lawrence's downtown post office Wednesday night witnessed the return of once-a-year dance crazes, including the filing frenzy, post-office panic and mailing madness.
As usual, the Internal Revenue Service took the lead during every song as the Alferd Packer Memorial String Band ushered in midnight April 15, the deadline to give Uncle Sam and the state of Kansas their tribute from 1991 earnings.
The band strummed guitars, played fiddles and scratched washboards as they urged the crowd to sing along to bluegrass and folk songs, some favorites, others obscure, at the sixth annual Alferd Packer Memorial String Band Tax Night Party at the main post office, 645 Vt. Recipients of the entertainment included last-minute taxpayers as well as postal employees who stuck around to operate the scales and bag the returns for their final destinations.
Bill Reynolds, Lawrence postmaster, said customers had filled about seven bags of mail by the end of the night. Each bag holds about 2,000 pieces.
"THERE'S about 14,000 pieces of mail, which is heavier than last year," he said. "We had a mad rush from 8:30 to about a quarter after 11."
Some people showed up to the party fashionably late, making their entrance just before the deadline, while others ran into locked doors as the band strummed the final chord of the William Tell Overture.
Natalie Hamilton, a Kansas University junior from Lawrence, arrived at the party about 11:58 but didn't achieve her goal.
"I was hoping to be the last one," she said. "I've been coming down here paying at midnight for the last two years, and my goal is to be the very last taxpayer in Lawrence. I knew I was very near the end maybe next year."
Other taxpayers made a brief appearance early. They placed their tax forms in the appropriate bin marked "Federal Returns to Austin, TX," "State Returns to Topeka" or "All Other Tax Returns."
IF THEY wandered out for a snack, they found suspicious-looking road-kill sludge that the band's official chef, Mike Coffman, prepared with a number of tire-flattened critters including racoon and oppossum.
Many of the early taxpayers disappeared, vowing they'd complete next year's 1040s in January.
Still others decided to make a night, or at least part of a night, of it.
"I didn't know there was a band playing," said Mike Avery, a KU graduate student from Detroit, who mailed his return just as the party started about 9:30. "I'm going to definitely stick around to watch the band for awhile."
Avery blamed school work and lack of financial information for the final-day filing. However, he claimed all income, he said.