Scenes from downtown Lawrence’s sidewalk sale, including hemp and poetry

photo by: Journal-World photo/Chad Lawhorn

Matt Porubsky and Danny Caine work the instant poetry booth in front of The Raven Book Store at Downtown Lawrence's 2018 sidewalk sale, Thursday, July 19, 2018.

Hemp and poetry is a winning combination at today’s Downtown Lawrence Sidewalk Sale. There are many days that a slight variation of that combination is on display in downtown. But let’s not go there. Instead, let’s do some news and notes from today’s 59th annual sidewalk extravaganza.

• First, the poetry. The Raven Book Store, 6 E. Seventh St., has a booth featuring “instant poetry.” For a $5 donation, you can tell the two resident poets your name and give them a bit of a topic, and they’ll write you a free verse poem. For a little larger donation, they’ll write you a more complicated poem, such as a sonnet.

The money goes to nonprofit RAICES — the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services — which is busy these days with issues of family separation along the border.

In case you are wondering, the booth is staffed with trained poets. Alyse Bensel recently received her doctorate in English and creative writing from KU and soon will be teaching in North Carolina. Justin Runge has his MFA in creative writing from the University of Alabama, and he works as a copy editor at KU. At least those were the two on duty when I was there. My understanding is that other poets will rotate in throughout the day.

Related photo gallery

Downtown Lawrence Sidewalk Sale 2018, July 19, 2018

How’s their work? Well, judge for yourself, though remember that they had an exceptionally good topic to work with: A reporter’s day at the sidewalk sale. Mine was written by Runge, who said it was written with love, but not barbecue sauce. (My tie’s reputation precedes me.)


On this day, my beat is covered

in card tables, clearance racks,

sweat from the backs of bargain hunters

in the 100% free heat. If I walk

far enough, past the AC slipping out

of shop doors ajar and tote bags

hefty with hauls, past the library

(where the merch is mostly no-cost)

and the playground where kids burn

a little skin and energy, maybe

they’ll let me pass the aquatic center

gates and splay out, necktie still on,

in that perfect blue pool. That’d be cool.

• Now the hemp. Today is the first day of business for CBD of Lawrence. If you have forgotten about CBD, you evidently are spending too much time reading instant poems. CBD is a product made from hemp that is being touted as a benefit for all types of ailments, and it has become trendy.

There are multiple CBD shops around town. I wrote about one of the first to pop up in Lawrence at 19th and Massachusetts streets. Another one — American Shaman — has opened recently at 1530 W. Sixth St. But Dustin Hothan is working to make a splash with the product on Massachusetts Street. He has opened CBD of Lawrence at 843 Massachusetts St., which is the space formerly occupied by Flirt boutique.

photo by: Journal-World photo/Chad Lawhorn

Dustin Hothan, right, visits with customers at CBD of Lawrence, 843 Massachusetts St., as part of the store’s grand opening celebration during the Downtown Lawrence Sidewalk Sale on Thursday, July 19, 2018.

Hothan is a pharmacist, and he began selling CBD products at his pharmacy in Meriden about two years ago. The response he got from customers there led him to look for expansion opportunities. After having gone to KU, having a store in downtown Lawrence made sense to him. He’s hoping his medical training will help open some minds about CBD products, most of which aren’t yet approved by the FDA.

“There is still a stigma there,” Hothan said. “You have to help people understand that it is not weed. You can’t get high from it. I’m finding that more and more people are open to learning about it.”

The Republican-controlled Kansas Legislature recently passed a bill clarifying that the products are legal in Kansas because they don’t have the chemical compounds of marijuana that make you high.

But there are still some outstanding legislative issues. Hothan was using his sidewalk booth to highlight those. Rep. Willie Dove, R-Bonner Springs, was at the CBD booth talking with patrons about legislative efforts to allow Kansas farmers to grow industrial hemp.

Dove thought he had a bill passed the last session that would have allowed large-scale hemp farms in the state, but near the end of the legislative process, the bill was crafted to cap the amount of hemp production in Kansas to 80 acres, primarily for testing purposes. Dove said he’ll be introducing new legislation in the next session to get that cap lifted. He thinks the legislation has a chance as Kansas farmers start to realize how much of a cash crop industrial hemp can be. Dove estimated a hemp crop produces between $250 to $1,200 in profit per acre.

If neither hemp nor politics interest you, CBD of Lawrence does have one other product it is offering. It is selling kombucha tea by Kansas City-based Tea-Biotics. Several places in town sell Tea-Biotics products, but only the bottled version. CBD has six varieties of the Kombucha tea on tap. If you are not familiar with kombucha, it is a fermented combination of green and black tea with various fruit juices or herbs added to the mix.

• Also new to the downtown festivities this year is a bouncy house for the kids. That is part of the Kansas Athletics booth that is set up in front of the US Bank Tower at Ninth and Massachusetts streets.

• If you are planning to get out this afternoon to the sale, which goes till sundown, have a cooling plan after you bounce or even read poetry. Temperatures are forecast to top 100 degrees sometime after 1 p.m. today, according to the Weather Channel. That has caused several retailers to limit their sales to inside rather than booths on the sidewalk. It seems that has become more of a trend in recent years.

With this heat, it also may be worth your time to cruise around to look for that prime parking spot. Parking on sidewalk sale day is not as difficult as it used to be. At about 10:30 a.m. today, it was still possible to find a few parking spots on Massachusetts Street, plus quite a few spots on the side streets.


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