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Archive for Sunday, September 12, 2004

City ready for birthday bash

Lawrence to cap 150th anniversary with week of events

September 12, 2004

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Randy Weseman is talking some sesquicentennial smack.

The superintendent of Lawrence Public Schools has sported a beard for the better part of the summer, and he's hoping it will earn him recognition next weekend as part of the beard-growing contest at the city's 150th birthday.

"Growing the beard is my way to contribute to the celebration," Weseman said. "I don't want to enter, because I don't want to upset the egos of people trying to grow what they call a beard. But I probably will have to enter."

Next weekend, the formal educational and historical events focusing on the 150th anniversary of the city's founding will make way for a birthday party bigger than Lawrence has seen in 50 years, when it celebrated its centennial.

After a few days of preliminary events beginning today, the big events kick off Saturday, exactly 150 years after a group of men met in early day Lawrence to organize the city structure.

Thousands of spectators are expected downtown beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday, when a 100-entry parade will roll down Massachusetts Street from Seventh Street to South Park.

Bob Foster, the Kansas University music professor leading a committee to organize the parade, said it would be the biggest parade of its type in Lawrence since the 1976 parade marking the nation's bicentennial.

"It's really an interesting, eclectic, great representation of this community from every aspect -- historically, different interest areas, the business community's standpoint, a religious standpoint, different service organizations," he said.

Entries include a cavalry unit from Fort Riley, the 312th Army Band and politicians, including a float of former Lawrence mayors. Foster estimated the parade would last two hours.

Paraders marched down Massachusetts Street to celebrate Lawrence's
semi-centennial in 1904. Organizers of a parade scheduled for
Saturday, when Lawrence marks its 150th anniversary, promise the
biggest parade in years in the city.

Paraders marched down Massachusetts Street to celebrate Lawrence's semi-centennial in 1904. Organizers of a parade scheduled for Saturday, when Lawrence marks its 150th anniversary, promise the biggest parade in years in the city.

"These kinds of parades are high-water marks for the community," he said. "They leave a huge impression, especially on the young people."

The party will continue at South Park, where a festival is scheduled from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. In addition to the beard-growing contest -- a light-hearted event at 2 p.m. with categories for women and children -- activities will include a pie-eating contest, games, food, music and informational booths by Lawrence organizations.

"History's fun," said organizer Steve Braswell, "but we keep falling back on the idea that this is a birthday party. We wanted to throw education to the wind and have a party."

Saturday night, the park will transform into a concert venue, as Kelley Hunt will headline an outdoor concert that also includes Billy Ebeling and the Late for Dinner Band.

Unlike the parade and festival, the dance isn't sponsored by the Lawrence Sesquicentennial Commission. It's a project of the Lawrence Street Dance Committee, which formed specifically to plan the dance.





"We had been planning a CD release concert for Lawrence on a different date," Hunt said. "But when the committee contacted us about this, it felt right to build this into a free concert celebrating Lawrence's 150th year with our hometown people. We're thrilled to be part of this. I'm reminded every day I'm on the road away from home how much I love living in Lawrence."

The week's events will conclude with the burial of a sesquicentennial time capsule during a ceremony at 4 p.m. Sunday at Sesquicentennial Point, the site near the Clinton Lake dam across from the off-leash dog park that someday will be home to a plaza commemorating the city's 150th year.

A passenger in an old Lawrence trolley waves for the camera during
the Lawrence Centennial Parade in 1954.

A passenger in an old Lawrence trolley waves for the camera during the Lawrence Centennial Parade in 1954.

The weekend caps a year of activities organized, co-organized or funded by the Lawrence Sesquicentennial Commission. The wide-ranging events and products the committee has produced include a CD of historical information for elementary teachers, the Bleeding Kansas Chautauqua, a tour of historic trees and a mural at the Lawrence Public Library.

"Everywhere I turn there's some little evidence of some little thing that's been able to come from this," said Clenece Hills, the commission's president. "I'm glad it's not just one thing."











Everyone knows what a centennial is, right? It's the 100th anniversary of something. Lawrence celebrated that big birthday party in 1954.The sesquicentennial celebrates the 150th anniversary.But this week's sesquicentennial actually is the fourth major organized celebration of the city's founding.The first? Lawrence called it a semi-centennial, and it was a big deal in 1904, to celebrate the first 50 years.The second was 25 years later, when an October 1929 event celebrated the 75 anniversary.

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