Several events planned to be downtown draws

The Surefire Jugglers perform Aug. 22, 2008, during the Lawrence Busker Festival in downtown Lawrence. The Busker Festival will return this year, and other downtown events this summer are up for approval at tonight’s City Commission meeting.

Fire eaters, street dances and open-air grills. It must be summer in downtown Lawrence.

Planning is well under way for at least a trio of events designed to bring people and their wallets to downtown Lawrence this summer:

• Lawrence Busker Festival will be back downtown for a second year.

The street performance festival is set for Aug. 21 to Aug. 23, and organizer Richard Renner hopes to have more than 20 performers to entertain crowds.

Renner, the owner of a local vaudeville entertainment company, estimates that last year’s inaugural event drew 5,000 to 8,000 people downtown. He said several merchants reported increased sales of 10 percent to 30 percent, compared with the same weekend a year earlier.

“I think every e-mail or letter we received asked us to please do it again,” Renner said.

This year the event will add a children’s stage in front of the Lawrence Public Library, in addition to having performers up and down Massachusetts Street.

The event also is expected to attract Mama Lou, who bills herself as the “American Strong Woman,” ripping phone books in half and pounding nails into wood with her fists. Also on tap will be fire eaters, fire jugglers, sword swallowers, puppeteers, magicians and musicians, Renner said.

• Up for approval at tonight’s Lawrence City Commission meeting is a request to close Eighth Street between Massachusetts and New Hampshire streets for a 20th anniversary party for the Sandbar.

The Sandbar, 17 E. Eighth St., wants to close the street from 5 p.m. Aug. 1 to 1 a.m. Aug. 2. The Saturday night event would feature a street dance, street vendors and outdoor drinking.

City staff members are recommending commissioners approve the request. Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. today.

• An outdoor event at the Eldridge Hotel also will be up for consideration tonight by commissioners.

The Eldridge, 701 Mass., is seeking a permit to have an outdoor band from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. July 3. The event would be on the vacant lot immediately south of the hotel.

The concert, which also would feature outdoor food sales, would be a kickoff event for the Tour of Lawrence, a professional bicycle race that will be in Lawrence July 3-5.

The Eldridge event is in addition to a host of downtown activities planned for July 4. Those include a food festival at 3 p.m. in Watson Park that will include offerings from 16 locally owned restaurants, and a fireworks show over the Kansas River that will begin about 9 p.m.