From concerts to fresh produce, Lawrence's downtown offers shoppers more than just a retail experience.
"Free and easy."
That's how you can describe spring and summer in downtown Lawrence, says a downtown shopkeeper.
There are brown bag concerts. Musicians stroll through the downtown. A few special events are planned at neighboring parks. And a farmers market will bring a touch of country into the city.
"Downtown has a more casual, environmentally friendly attitude to shopping in the spring and summer," said Mark Swanson, owner of Spectators, 710 Mass.
"The ambience, versus going to some enclosed box mall and popping from store to store, is the difference," said Swanson, chairman of the promotions committee for Downtown Lawrence Inc.
"You don't see this kind of vitality in the downtown areas in very many places in the country," Swanson said.
The biggest planned event for the summer is the annual downtown Sidewalk Sale, which will be held July 18.
"Although it's not a carnival, there certainly is a carnival atmosphere," he said. "The sidewalk sales is a gathering of thousands of people from the region. All the stores bring their goods out on the street, and it's a giant sale."
The dawn-to-dusk sale features street vendors selling food and all of the shopkeepers selling their merchandise at reduced prices.
"It's a bargains-galore kind of attitude and everybody is pulling out the stops," Swanson said. "It truly is a bargain hunter's paradise. It's one of the few times when the stores all come together. It's one attitude: We're on sale and we're having fun being on sale."
The downtown organization also sponsors the Farmer's Market, which is held Tuesday and Thursday afternoons and Saturday mornings from May 11 through Nov. 9 in the city parking lot in the 1000 block of Vermont.
The market, which features fresh garden produce, flowers, baked goods and other items, is open from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Saturdays.
Other activities planned during the summer are jointly offered by the downtown organization and the city's parks and recreations department.
Kathy Fode, the city's recreation superintendent, said free weekly brown bag concerts will be held during the noon hour Thursdays from June 6 through Aug. 8 in front of the Mercantile Bank, Ninth and Massachusetts streets.
The concert schedule is as follows: June 6, Billy Spears Band; June 13, Borderline Country; June 20, River City Six; June 27, Babylon Sisters; July 4, special guest band; July 11, Lonnie Ray Blues Band; July 18, Tommie Johnson Experiment; July 25, Lonesome Hobos; Aug. 1, Lucia Levi and the Little Zipper Band, and Aug. 8, Debbie and the Mystics.
The Lawrence City Band will perform free concerts at 8 p.m. Wednesdays from June 5 to July 29 at the William Kelly Bandstand in South Park. The concerts are co-sponsored by the parks and recreation department and the Rice Foundation.
The parks and recreation department will also sponsor a free movie night at 9 p.m. Aug. 10 at the city's municipal pool. Walt Disney's "Pocahontas" will be shown on a big screen.
Free movies will be shown on a big screen set up at 9 p.m. July 31, Aug. 7 and Aug. 14 in South Park.
Fode said those interested in the city's early history might want to take a bus tour, "Retracing Quantrill's Raid," that will go through part of the downtown. It will be from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 18, at the visitor's center at the Union Pacific Depot in North Lawrence.
Swanson said the downtown organization will also be involved in Civil War Days, a five-day promotion sponsored by the Eldridge Hotel, that begins with an ice cream social on Aug. 18.
- For more on Civil War Days, see story page 10.