Bring KU spirit to homecoming bash

There will be music, there will be beer and there will be dancing in the streets to kick off this weekend’s Kansas University homecoming activities.

In other words, it will be just like old times.

The Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Lawrence Inc. and the KU Alumni Association are teaming to present Get Downtown, a free music event that will turn a one-block stretch of downtown into a party zone Friday evening.

Can you say: Rock (‘n’ roll) Chalk Jayhawk?

“You can have parties anywhere, but I don’t think there is anywhere in the country that has a better place for an event like this than downtown Lawrence,” said Susan Henderson, director of marketing for the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau. “And this is a great time to have a party.”

The event starts at 5:30 p.m. Friday and will last until 10:30 p.m. Crews will block off Eighth Street between New Hampshire and Massachusetts streets to provide room for a stage and a beer garden area.

KU’s pep band, spirit squad and Jayhawk mascots will get the event started. At 6 p.m., the Michael Beers Band will take the stage, with Dr. Zhivegas, a funk and disco band, following at 8:30 p.m. Entry to the event is free; five local vendors will sell beer, burgers, burritos, barbecue and other fare.

The event will serve as a warm-up for fans heading to the 11 a.m. Saturday homecoming tilt between KU and Texas A&M at Memorial Stadium.

But the party isn’t just for returning KU alumni. Rick Marquez, executive director for Downtown Lawrence Inc., said the event also is designed to remind Lawrence residents of what downtown has to offer.

“What we want to do is show people what we have,” Marquez said. “Hopefully, they’ll come and park in the parking garage, walk a couple of blocks and look in the shops along the way.”

Henderson said the organizers are preparing for “several thousand” people to attend.

“The great thing is that there really is no limit on the number of people downtown can hold,” Henderson said. “We’re expecting it to be big.”

Henderson said she hopes the event becomes an annual tradition.

“A lot of communities have a signature event, especially on a game day weekend, and we think this could become something like that,” Henderson said.

Organizers have received all necessary permits and approvals from the city to close the one-block stretch of street and allow consumption of beer in the fenced area.