Blustering wind and light moisture blow in your face, and the spark of lightning and crack of thunder make you jump off of your seat, almost spilling your cool gin and tonic. Is this just another average night of turbulent weather in Kansas?
No, this is The Hurricane Show, an attraction offered twice nightly at The Sandbar, a tavern at 17 E. Eighth St.
Added this February, The Hurricane Show is a multimedia event at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., and is the brainchild of Peach Madl, co-owner of The Sandbar, and Pat Conroy, her brother.
The theme of the attraction is about Kayla, a mermaid and daughter of the Roman god Neptune. Kayla has lost her love, a fisherman named Jimmy Tuttle, who is at sea during a hurricane.
The event begins with a customer dressing up in a mermaid costume provided by the bar and reading a poem to her lost love.
According to Ashley Gerald, a Kansas City resident and girlfriend of Sandbar bartender Bob Little, dressing up is a rewarding experience.
"It's a lot of fun," she said. "You get a free shot and shot glass, so that helps out a lot."
Immediately afterward, the weather starts. Wind blows from fans as fog and bubble machines pour out simulated precipitation.
Then, a fake newscast comes over the bar's TV monitors, talking about the hurricane's appearance this far from any ocean. As the newscast ends, everyone feels The Hurricane experience for about five more minutes, and then a song about "The Legend of the Sandbar Hurricane" follows, to the tune of the classic song "Copacabana"
According to Little and fellow bartender Scott McDaniel, The Hurricane has been a hit with both Sandbar frequenters and first-timers.
"It seems like a lot of the 'regulars' really enjoy it," said Little.
According to McDaniel, "People have seen it enough that they have little responses to the newscast, a la 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show.'"
"When there are a lot of people in here, they really get into it," said Gerald.
McDaniel also says that The Hurricane has been a boost for the bar, and has succeeded in making The Sandbar a "destination place" in downtown Lawrence.
"The intention is to bring in a new group of people and to give them a reason to come to The Sandbar," he said. "It's been effective in getting people to talk about us."
Luke Walters is a student at Baker University in Baldwin.