Lawrence ranked as a top city in the Midwest; reggae festival coming to downtown; Herbert issues apology for Topeka comments

Finally, a political platform that I could get enthusiastic about: More breweries and more wineries. That seems to have been the winning combination for a community that recently beat Lawrence in a contest to be named the Midwest’s Greatest Town.

If you remember, we reported in January that Lawrence was one of 12 finalists in Midwest Living’s Greatest Town contest. The voting has wrapped up, and the winner was announced in the most recent edition of Midwest Living. The good news is that Lawrence is getting some national attention as one of the more attractive towns in the midwest. But perhaps there was a voter registration mix-up at the secretary of state’s office or something, because Lawrence got beat in the voting by Traverse City, Michigan.

The editors of Midwest Living raved about Traverse City’s six microbreweries and a wine trail that takes you to 26 different wineries. Lawrence could probably compete in that arena. To be fair, the editors also went on about paddle boarding opportunities on Traverse City’s Boardman River, but hey, if an editor with Midwest Living wants to paddle board on the Kaw, we could arrange that. (Guaranteed winning strategy: Leave him on a sandbar until we’re named No. 1.)

Our July/August issue reveals the winner of our Midwest's Greatest Town contest — as well as recipes for corn and for stone fruits; tips on indigo dyeing; and outdoor party ideas.

Posted by Midwest Living on Monday, June 27, 2016

The magazine, which is on newsstands now, does say lots of nice things about Lawrence too. It highlights our culture and sporting events that are connected to KU, but it also touts Massachusetts Street.

“But along downtown’s Mass Street, things skew into a bit of an inland Portlandia,” the editors wrote, referring to the television program of the same name, I assume. “Mass Street Soda hosts craft root beer tastings. Free State Brewing was doing craft beer before everyone thought it was cool. Cats lounge in shops selling used vinyl (Love Garden Sounds) and used books (The Dusty Bookshelf.)”

I don’t know much about the television series Portlandia, but I gather it has a strong focus on merchant cats that drink root beer. Regardless, here’s a look at the 12 finalists, which Midwest Living is touting as great summer vacation spots. (Note, other than Traverse City, the ranking wasn’t revealed for any of the others. Also, all communities had to be no larger than 100,000 people in population.)

• Traverse City, Michigan

• Lawrence

• Branson, Missouri

• Columbus, Indiana

• Decorah, Iowa

• Galena, Illinois

• Rapid City, South Dakota

• Bayfield, Wisconsin

• Medora, North Dakota

• Nebraska City, Nebraska

• Put-in-Bay, Ohio

• Duluth, Minnesota

In other news and notes from around town

• I bet a little of the medicine that Bob Marley used to dispense would have moved us up that list. Well, on second thought, maybe not. (It may have produced a really odd issue of Midwest Living, to be honest.) Regardless, I’ve gotten word that a plan is in place to make Downtown Lawrence a focal point for Marley and reggae music.

Plans have been filed at City Hall for a one-day concert event to take place on a downtown sidewalk and an adjacent vacant lot. The event is set to be billed as Live on Mass presents Lawrence Reggae Fest.

Longtime concert promoter and Lawrence businessman Mike Logan is organizing the festival. The headliner for the event is scheduled to be The Wailers, a band that features two of the original members of Bob Marley’s band. The event is scheduled for the evening of Aug. 19, a Friday.

Posted by The Granada Theater on Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The event is seeking City Hall approval to do something a little bit different. Instead of closing off a portion of Massachusetts Street like some events do, Logan is seeking to instead close off a large portion of a Massachusetts Street sidewalk. Plans call for the sidewalk on the east side of Massachusetts Street to be closed from 11th Street to in front of Logan’s establishment, The Granada, at 1020 Massachusetts. The actual concert — which will be free but will ask attendees to donate a can of food for the food bank Just Food — will take place in the parking lot just south of the Granada building. The sidewalk will be used as an overflow area, a place for booths, a beer garden and other such uses.

• We might not make many lists of best neighbors currently, especially if the voting is done by those in Topeka. As we have reported in the last couple of days, City Commissioner Matthew Herbert made some comments as part of the city’s budget discussions that took some shots at Topeka and its arts efforts.

Well, Herbert late last night issued an apology on his Facebook page for those comments. That apology reads, in part: “I want to apologize for my comments that were offensive to the city of Topeka. The comments were made out of frustration for a series of budget cuts aimed at the arts that I felt sadly mirror many similar cuts made in Topeka at the state legislative level. My ‘anger’ with Topeka on this topic is with the legislature which convenes in Topeka, not with the private citizens and artists of Topeka.

“I’m hopeful that my overall message isn’t lost in articles that focus on on the one controversial statement; I stand behind the ultimate message which was that many people choose to live in Lawrence because of the artistic and culturally diverse strong environment it offers.”

Herbert went on to write: “In expressing my desire to see Lawrence stick to (its) culturally vibrant roots, I didn’t need to degrade anyone else’s city. That was a very poor choice and for that I am truly sorry.”