Get Down Town festival kicks off

Rick Martin, executive chef at Free State Brewery, talks on his cell phone and sets up his vendor booth at the Get Down Town music festival. This is the first year that Free State has sold food at the festival.

Friday night, three months of work for Brett Mosiman came to a head when the third annual Get Down Town festival kicked off.

It’s no small get-together, either.

Mosiman is a producer for Just Like Lawrence Inc., a nonprofit that’s hosting the event along with the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce and the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau. The city donated the funds; Mosiman’s group handled the details and permits.

“There’s a lot of little things,” he said. “The logistical things: tents, porta-potties, labor, vendors and bands. There’s quite a bit of energy.”

Energy indeed. Since 6 a.m. Friday morning, about 60 laborers – both paid workers and volunteers – constructed the stage, wired sound equipment and prepared for a flock of Lawrencians to attend the festival.

The city donated $20,000 for the festival. Mosiman said that local vendors, shops and the downtown district as a whole would benefit from the large crowd.

Madina Salaty, a vendor coordinator for the event, spent her morning drawing chalk lines on the pavement, mapping exactly where vendors would set up shop. She said eight food vendors and a number of beer vendors would be at the festival.

“In the past, it’s been wall-to-wall with people,” she said. “It’s good exposure for those businesses.”

Rick Martin, an executive chef who’s worked at Free State Brewery for 17 years, helped set up and organize Free State’s food tent at the festival. He said that Get Down Town was a good opportunity for his business to “support the local scene and make some good local food.”

“Lawrence needs a festival,” he said. “Hopefully, this could be it.”

Not all of the vendors at the festival are from Lawrence. Hall’s Fantastic Funnel Cakes, a Topeka-based business, is making its Get Down Town debut this year.

“It sounded like a huge event,” said Debbie Hall, who ran the funnel cake business with her husband, Warren. “When you get a lot of spectators, it could be a good show.”

She said that her business hoped to lure locals with both funnel cakes and Indian tacos (a deep fat-fried bread with taco toppings).

“I think the tacos will make them happy,” she said. “I know it’ll make them full.”

And for many businesses near the festival on New Hampshire Street, the roadblocks and 40-foot stage are no bother.

Jess Hicks, an esthetician (or waxer, in layman’s terms) at the Fix Salon, 845 N.H., thought that the festival would actually bring more business to the beauty parlor.

“Drinks and free music is always a good thing,” she said. “Always.”

Mosiman said that the show’s benefits extended past that of mere financial gain. The biggest profit, he said, would be getting 10,000 people in the downtown Lawrence area.

“I think that we like the idea of street parties,” he said. “If you think it’s the best thing or the worst thing in the world, everybody shares the pain or the gain.”

Mosiman said that Downtown Lawrence Farmers’ Market, located in the parking lot near the event, wouldn’t be affected by the festival. The market will open at 7 a.m. Music will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday.