Children and others screamed in mock horror and delight Thursday as Godzilla's gigantic head came into view over the roof of Liberty Hall.
A 28-foot replica of the movie monster was inflated over the downtown theater, which is screening early Godzilla movies as part of a Kansas University conference that has attracted scholars from around the world.
"I think people are bright enough in Lawrence to make sure they don't do anything rash or give in to panic," Lawrence Mayor Mike Rundle said before the movie-star monster reared its head.
The Godzilla balloon was inflated just after 12:30 p.m. to kick off "In Godzilla's Footsteps," the conference continuing today and Saturday at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 N.H.
The conference is part of Godzilla Week, Oct. 24-30, which includes three free Godzilla movies at Liberty Hall, 642 Mass. The first screening Thursday was the original 1954 version of the first Godzilla film, "Gojira."
At noon, a crowd began gathering in front of the theater to wait for the arrival of the King of the Monsters. Local band Aubrey played Blue Oyster Cult's "Godzilla" before a short speech by KU history professor William Tsutsui, author of "Godzilla on My Mind."
"A subject doesn't have to be dry and boring to be enlightening and instructive," Tsutsui said. "Godzilla is good fun."
The mayor then spoke, proclaiming that "Lawrence and Kansas welcome Godzilla, King of the Monsters."
Then, the KU Baby Jay mascot and Tsutsui hit a switch on a black box labeled "RADIOACTIVE" to begin inflating the monster.
Zoe Timmerman, 11, came with a group of classmates and teachers from Century School. They watched from the sidewalk across the street. Timmerman said she hadn't seen any Godzilla movies but liked the Japanese monster "because he destroys stuff."
Kathy Bodnar, 53, Manhattan, liked Godzilla for the same reason.
"You can live vicariously through Godzilla," she said. "You can stomp cities and nobody dies."