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Lecompton and Downtown Lawrence's Christmas parade both garner national media attention; Lawrence ranks low in new per capita income report, while Manhattan soars
News and notes from around town:
• Forget the fiscal cliff, forget the Middle East conflict, heck, even forget Black Friday (I wish I could). The national media finally has found a worthy place to sink its teeth into: Douglas County.
Lawrence and Douglas County have received a pair of high-profile articles from the national media in recent days.
At the top of the list is little Lecompton and its tireless top-hat-clad promoter. If you have ever been to an event in Lecompton, chances are you either met or at least saw Paul Bahnmaier, president of the Lecompton Historical Society. Well, now so too has The New York Times.
The Times last week ran an article on Lecompton and Bahnmaier’s efforts to get the town of about 600 people national recognition as Steven Spielberg’s film “Lincoln” hits the big screen.
The movie is based on the book “Team of Rivals,” which mentions Lecompton and the pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution that set in motion a series of political events that would culminate with Lincoln’s election.
Bahnmaier has been contacting media outlets throughout the state and region, urging them to take a look at Lecompton’s history.
As he told The Times, Lecompton should not play second fiddle to more well-known Civil War sites such as Fort Sumter, Gettysburg or Appomattox.
“None of those places would be important had the events not occurred here in Lecompton,” Bahnmaier told The Times.
The article is a good primer on Lecompton’s importance in the broader picture of the Civil War and Lincoln’s rise to power. But even more than that, it is just nice recognition for a man who has devoted himself to ensuring Lecompton’s important role in national history is not forgotten.
By the sound of things, Bahnmaier has gotten fairly excited about the surge in national interest in Lecompton. The Times’ article revealed that Bahnmaier routinely dines on a turkey sandwich at Kroeger’s Country Meats in Lecompton. But on a recent afternoon, “he was so excited about the possibility of national coverage of the town’s history that he allowed himself a quarter-pound cheeseburger.”
Now, that’s pretty excited.
The second recent article has organizers of Lawrence’s Old-Fashioned Christmas Parade excited. The parade will make its way down Massachusetts Street for the 20th time at 11 a.m. on Saturday.
The folks at USA Today named the parade as one of “10 Great Places to Put a Spin on the Christmas Spirit.” The article promotes the parade as one of the few places where you can still get that old-fashioned Christmas feel.
Lawrence, however, has some interesting competition. One is The Inn at Christmas Place in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. The hotel is Christmas themed all year round. It features a singing Santa and a nearby gift shop that has “tens of thousands” of holiday accessories.
That sounds like pure Hell. It may be the only hotel in the country where Norman Bates visiting your shower may improve your stay.
Then there is something called Dickens on the Strand in Galveston, Texas. It involves people dressed up in the Victorian clothing of Dickens’ era. It also includes something called “bed races.”
No thank you. My wife had me train for one of those once. It involved me on a roll-away cot, my basement stairs and her giving me a big push.
I knew there was a reason I never liked Dickens.
• There is a new report out that probably won’t cause Lawrence to garner any national headlines. The Bureau of Economic Analysis has released its estimates for 2011 per capita income in each of the country’s 366 metro areas.
Lawrence isn’t likely to land on any “best of” lists in this category. The Lawrence metro area — which is all of Douglas County — has a per capita income of $33,379, which ranks it 271 out of the 366 metro areas. There is good news though. Lawrence’s per capita income grew in 2011, which was not the case in 2010. In fact, for the first time since 2007, every metro area in the country saw an increase in per capita income. Lawrence’s per capita income grew by 3.5 percent for the year. Nationally, however, the average metro area saw its per capita income grow by 4.3 percent. If those are the Joneses up ahead, we’re not keeping up.
I’ll tell you a community that is, though: Manhattan. Our friends in the K-State capital now have an average per capita income of $43,593. That’s right, folks in Manhattan have about $10,000 more in per capita income than folks in Lawrence. (This is normally where I would make some sort of math-related joke involving Wildcats, but it appears they understand math better than we do.) Manhattan’s per capita income growth rate was 6.4 percent in 2011, and the city now has the 55th highest per capita income of any metro area in the country.
And you thought the beating we took on the football field was bad.
Lawrence leaders long have pointed to the city’s role as a university community as a drag on per capita income. There are certainly many university communities that suffer from low per capita incomes as the result of students who drag down the average. But anymore, it seems there are just as many university communities that have diversified their economies and have negated the downward income pressure create by low-earning students.
Here’s a look at several communities. Some are university towns, while others are not. I mainly picked regional communities and others I thought you would be interested in:
— Lawrence: $33,379; 3.5 percent growth — Ames, Iowa: $37,429; 6.1 percent growth — Austin, Texas: $40,455; 3.9 percent growth — Boulder, Colo.: $51,893; 3.7 percent growth — Columbia, Mo.: $37,350; 4.1 percent growth — Iowa City, Iowa: $41,277; 6.1 percent growth — Jefferson City, Mo.: $35,453; 3.2 percent growth — Joplin, Mo.: $31,408; 3.9 percent growth — Kansas City Mo./Kan.: $43,062; 3.9 percent growth — Lincoln, Neb.: $39,018; 4.8 percent — Lubbock, Texas: $34.573; 1.9 percent growth — Manhattan: $43,593; 6.4 percent growth — Oklahoma City, Okla.: $40,002; 5.9 percent growth — Omaha, Neb.: $44,470; 4.4 percent growth — St. Joseph, Mo.: $34,189; 4.8 percent growth — Springfield, Mo.: $33,302; 4.1 percent growth — Topeka: $37,765; 5.2 percent growth — Tulsa, Okla.: $42,236; 6.8 percent growth — Waco, Texas: $33,943; 2.7 percent growth — Wichita: $38,568; 4.4 percent growth