Buskerfest hits downtown

Hayley Cherveny, of Kansas City, Mo., performs an aerial artistic display with the Thieves of Flight during last year's Lawrence Busker Festival at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 N.H. The Busker Festival is set to run through the upcoming weekend.

It’s not every day you get to see aerial acrobatics, living statues and breaths of fire – at least not in downtown Lawrence.

After the success so far of the first-ever Busker Festival, event organizers and attendees want that to change.

“It’s excellent,” said Jeff Joseph, owner of Jeff’s Curbside Recycling, after watching a comedic juggling performance at US Bank, 900 Mass. “The whole event is excellent. It’s things you don’t get to see often. Hopefully it becomes an annual event.”

People can still catch the diverse artistic sightings and spectacles today. Since Friday night when the festival began, downtown has been bustling. It even reminded some like Ric Averill, a Buskerfest organizer, participant and dramatic director at the Lawrence Arts Center, of another festive day.

“I was stunned last night and delighted because I think enough people had heard about it. : It was about one-third as much as when we won the basketball tournament; I mean there were people all over downtown almost spilling into the streets.”

Averill wasn’t only impressed with the turnout Friday and Saturday. He was happy to see people giving tips to the buskers, many of whom “survive on tips,” he said.

“Those buskers last night were all smiling at the end because they know they were doing a good job, they had a big responsive crowd and then to top it off, people were willing to lay down a dollar or two to say, ‘Thanks for the great job,'” Averill said.

That’s reason enough for performers to want to return, he said, and some performers intend to do just that.

Performances began early Saturday at the Lawrence Arts Center where the eye-catching athleticism and grace of the aerial skills performance troupe “Voler Thieves of Flight” of Kansas City, Mo., engaged a large audience.

The troupe appeared to dance in the air with a vibrant red aerial fabric that hung from the building.

Inside the arts center, four groups volunteered to teach workshops that included juggling, balloon sculpting and how to mime.

The mime, Beth Byrd-Lonski, artistic director of Byrd Productions in Kansas City, Kan., later a clown at the breezeway in the 700 block of Massachusetts, taught children her quiet ways.

Later, with her red nose and black top hat, she enjoyed the playful interaction, she said.

“The community is wonderful in Lawrence, just fabulous,” Byrd said.

Massachusetts Street was built for performance arts and interaction with its breezeways and alcoves, she said.

“I would just eat it up if I lived here,” she said.

After getting a taste of the “fantastic” first festival, she’ll be back for more, she said.