Archive for Thursday, June 26, 2008

South Park scene: Band concerts draw crowds to idyllic Lawrence site

Hundreds gather for a Lawrence City Band concert.

Hundreds gather for a Lawrence City Band concert.

June 26, 2008


It is another Lawrence City Band night at South Park, where musicians gather for a series of 8 p.m. Wednesday performances for an attentive, relaxed audience. City Band night is nostalgia wrapped up in a little apple pie, a scene you might witness on an old-time movie set or in smaller towns of yesteryear.

The event draws an all-ages audience - the older listeners tend to congregate on lawn chairs for a little face time with the band leader. The children play tag, randomly circle the flower beds or frolic in the Roosevelt fountain.

The band leader asks the audience if they ever tire of sounds from "The Sound Of Music." From under the shade of the huge pin oaks and sycamores all the way to the front row, the audience mulls over this query. The band starts in: "Sixteen Going on Seventeen ..."

The band sets up at the South Park gazebo, which was originally built in 1906; it is actually called the William Kelly Bandstand. Constructed of red bricks with red corbels and trim and a covering that closely resembles a silver Hershey's Kiss, it came many years after the city had acquired the park in mid-19th century.

"Lawrence's first and oldest park was established in 1854 and used to graze cattle," says Crystal Miles, horticulture manager for Lawrence Parks and Recreation. "The park also is known for being the initial staging area that William Clarke Quantrill organized his troops for the 1863 Lawrence massacre."

The original layout of the park covered eight city blocks equaling 12 acres and was sectioned off into four separate parks - Lafayette Park, Hamilton Park, Washington Park and Franklin Park, named after patriots of the American Revolution. In 1910 the Roosevelt Fountain was dedicated, and President Roosevelt himself attended the ceremony along with around 6,000 citizens and visitors. He chugged into town by train and arrived at the Santa Fe train station. The fountain was then situated at Ninth and New Hampshire streets.

Now, of course, that fountain is situated in a place of revelry as the band ensues with their montage of songs wafts through the summer air. The fountain has been restored twice, in 1965 and in 1982, by the Lawrence Flower Club and Countryside Garden Club. One of Lawrence's most prolific rose gardens flanks the fountain; the garden originally created by Robert Rankin is at its glorious height of color and aroma.

"Roses that have been planted in recent years are Zepherine Drouhim (a climber on the fence in deep rose colors with fragrant blooms), Pink Fairy, Red and Pink Knockouts, Starry Night, Country Dancer and Carefree Beauty," Miles says.

While listeners take in the musical rhythms of the band, a different world is humming along across Massachusetts Street. South Park is quite smartly divided into two distinct areas with vastly different appeals. The east side is more of an area of reflection, with a comfy bench that overlooks French country-style rose gardens, a lovely long path of redbud trees and the "The Hedgehog House" sculpture made of sweet gum timber.

The west side of the park is for runners and swimmers. A Frisbee game can almost always be joined on the west side, and the playground equipment and wading pool are generally bustling with activity. Bordering the playground area is a flourishing butterfly garden that is not only a joy to behold but a learning tool as well. Curious kids watch the winged beauties flutter and flit from milkweed, asters, Buddleja, echinaceas, Gaillardia, Liatris, Monarda and more.

As the performance draws to a close, the band is rejoicing in one last tune, "Climb Every Mountain:" and the thunderclouds are rolling in. The crowd seems thankful that the weather cooperated, and now we might all go home to have a slice of apple pie and appreciate what gifts the city of Lawrence has to offer.

- Jennifer Oldridge, a Kansas University graduate, is an avid gardener who previously operated a landscaping business.


TheOriginalCA 9 years, 11 months ago

As a former member of this band, as well as a member from other community bands, the Lawrence City Band is one of the best if not the VERY best in the country. Words cannot describe the feeling of playing in a band where you hear kids continually playing and having a ball. I cherish those memories and also the memories of my kids standing below where I sat in the bandstand saying, "Hi," to me between musical numbers.The most awesome feeling that I had in that band was during the 1812 Overture when the artillery would fire. Here I am trying to play as loud as I possibly can and the force of the artillery blasts would literally push the wind backwards through my horn back into my mouth. The total exhillaration at the end of that song is almost too emotional to keep in check.

dandelion 9 years, 11 months ago

This is fun for all ages. It has a real community feel, like the fireworks display. I hope the new place for fireworks has the same feel as down by the river. Will there be shuttles? The traffic will be nuts otherwise. Has anyone heard?

StirrrThePot 9 years, 11 months ago

I love it. It is one of my most favorite things about Lawrence and living in Lawrence. I know quite a few of the band members, which makes the concerts more fun. I am usually chasing my kids around, but I can still hear the music. South Park itself is one of my favorite Lawrence "hot spots".

bkreed1960 9 years, 11 months ago

I enjoyed the story on the band concerts, but I really am disappointed with the direction that fireworks in this town are headed. I will be going to Desoto to watch their fireworks with some friends and that is a very small community. Isn't Lawrence's population almost 100,000 people (?) and there is no way that close to that number would even get the chance to see them at the new location. We should expect better of our city than the way this situation is playing out. Hope this changes to a better location next year after the city officials see the negative impact this will have on the attendance. What fun is it to watch fireworks from our cars (which they are suggesting we do)?!

Romans832 9 years, 11 months ago

Dandelion, according to the Sound Off column on June 20, there will NOT be a shuttle.

dandelion 9 years, 11 months ago

2,000 cars? That should be an interesting traffic jam. I think I'll ride my bicycle out on the trail. Or maybe I'll go to my friends in the country and spend a bunch on some fireworks. Maybe that's why they changed the location. Fewer people will attend, and more will go buy their own. Do the Jaycees own a firework stand? Why did they change it. It's so beautiful at the river.

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