A shakeup at local United Way; a new beer event for Lawrence; an update on Bowersock power plant; downtown trick-or treat set
There is a brief bit of important news on the social service front today. The No. 1 and No. 2 leaders of the local United Way have submitted their resignations.
Erika Dvorske, CEO of the United Way of Douglas County, and Colleen Gregoire, vice president of resource development for the organization, submitted their resignations at a board meeting Thursday night, according to an email from the United Way.
Dvorske will stay on board through the end of January, while Gregoire will step down at the end of the year. The email said Dvorske plans to do consulting work for nonprofits while Gregoire will pursue “creative interests and other career opportunities.”
I don’t have any more details than those. Obviously, the joint resignation of the top two leaders of the organization will create some questions among the public. We’re putting calls out to various people to provide you a more complete report later today.
• Drink craft beer and get to know your watershed. No, that is not some odd euphemism for the strain beer sometimes puts on your bladder. Instead, it is the theme of a new beer festival in downtown Lawrence — and the latest reminder that Lawrence really will find any excuse to get together to share some suds.
A unique fundraiser is coming up for the Friends of the Kaw group. On Nov. 6, the organization will host its first Beers of the Kaw beer festival at Abe & Jake’s Landing in Downtown Lawrence. The idea is simple, if not unusual: Invite breweries that are located in the Kansas River watershed to bring their beers to Lawrence for a festival.
If you don’t know what a watershed is, congratulations. Those of us who have had to sit through drainage board meetings or listen to a storm water engineer know that a watershed is the area that collects and drains water into, in this case, a river. Think of it this way: A drop of rain falls, the drop drains into a stream, the stream flows in a creek, and the creek dumps into the Kansas River. The land that the drop of water first touched is in the Kansas River watershed, and so are the stream and the creek.
“So many people don’t even know what a watershed is,” said Sarah Hill-Nelson, leader of the Bowersock Mills and Power Company, which operates a hydroelectric power plant on the portion of the Kansas River that flows along downtown Lawrence.
And, as has been well documented, beer is excellent at helping people understand complex topics, which is why the public has turned to it in large quantities while watching this year’s presidential debates.
Well, maybe I’m confused on some of that, but one thing that is clear is the Kansas River watershed is big. The watershed covers about 53,000 square miles. In Colorado it stretches nearly to Limon, in Nebraska it goes north of Hastings, and it ranges almost to McPherson to the south of here.
Come to find out, there are several breweries in that large area. The upcoming event will have nine of them:
— Free State Brewing Company, Lawrence
— 23rd Street Brewery, Lawrence
— Yankee Tank Brewing Company, Lawrence
— Boulevard Brewing Co, Kansas City
— Blind Tiger Brewery, Topeka
— Kansas Territory Brewing Co, Washington
— Tallgrass Brewing Company, Manhattan
— Blue Skye Brewery, Salina
— LB Brewing Company, Hays
Tickets for the event cost $20 and can be bought online at abejakes.com or in person at Sunflower Outdoor & Bike in downtown Lawrence. Proceeds will go to Friends of the Kaw, the nonprofit group that works to care for the river and educate the public about it.
In addition to the beer tastings, the event will have three local food vendors on site: Drasko's Food Truck, Fine Thyme Food and Terrebonne Cafe. Organizers are hoping the Beers of the Kaw event catches on and that attendees get a bit more out of it than the food and the beer.
“If a drop of water fell in eastern Colorado and it wasn’t used for irrigation, it would eventually flow by the Bowersock Dam in Lawrence,” Hill-Nelson said. “We’ve been thinking about the importance of clean water, and we thought if we showed them the beers of the watershed, that might be a fun way to get their attention.”
In other news and notes from around town:
• You may remember that about a year ago we reported Hill-Nelson’s new hydroelectric power plant along the Kaw was facing some serious challenges.
We reported the four generators in the power plant on the north side of the Bowersock Dam weren’t working well at all, and that combined with sparse rains had the plant producing little electricity.
Hill-Nelson, though, told me this week that the plant is in a much better position.
“July and August were the best months we’ve ever had,” Hill-Nelson said.
Hill-Nelson said she ended up making a big decision to have two of the four units removed from the plant, refurbished in Idaho and re-installed. Plus, Mother Nature has been cooperating. River flows have been just right — strong enough to turn the turbines but not so strong as to create dangerously high water levels that force the plant to shut down.
“The big questions we were facing really have been eliminated,” Hill-Nelson said. “Now it i just tweaking and having good water. We have good water right now. We’ll produce twice as much power as we did last year.”
The new power plant, along with Bowersock’s historic plant on the south side of the Kansas River, have a contract to produce power for the Kansas City, Kan., Board of Public Utilities. The power plants are an example of economic development in its truest sense: A Lawrence product is used to generate revenues that come from people who live outside the community.
While Lawrence residents ship plenty of dollars to Kansas City, it is nice to know that with at least some households in Kansas City, they send some money back to Lawrence every time they turn on a light switch.
• I may dress up as a watershed for Halloween. After all, it sounds like they have lots of beer. Whatever you dress up as, you can parade the costume around in downtown Lawrence. Leaders of Downtown Lawrence Inc. have announced that member businesses once again will be handing out candy to children on Halloween, which is Monday.
Businesses plan to begin hosting trick-or-treaters at 5 p.m. and will continue until the candy runs out. Downtown Lawrence Inc. advises businesses to buy 500 to 1,000 pieces of candy. (What? Buy a 1,000 pieces of candy? Who doesn’t have 1,000 pieces of candy lying around?)
In addition to the trick-or-treating, Watkins Museum will be hosting a scavenger hunt. The Lawrence Police Department also will be at 11th and Massachusetts with a vehicle, giveaway and fun information about the department, according to DLI.
Lawrence is many different types of towns. We're a university town. We're a basketball town. And as a quick peek into any of those glass recycling Dumpsters around the city can attest, we're also a beer town.
The folks at Kansas City-based Boulevard Brewing Co. are hoping to capitalize on that reputation more than they already do. Boulevard Brewing Co. is part of a new venture to open a Boulevard Grill inside the Lawrence Holiday Inn and Convention Center, 200 McDonald Drive.
The restaurant and bar will replace the Paddy O'Quigley's that has been in the hotel for several years.
Stephen Horton, general manager of the hotel, told me the switch will occur this week. The restaurant has a ribbon cutting scheduled for Dec. 19.
Horton said the restaurant always will have a minimum of six Boulevard beers on tap, and also will feature bottles of several of Boulevard's premium beers, such as its Smokestack Series, its IPA, its 80-Acre Hoppy Wheat and its Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale.
The restaurant also will have several dishes that incorporate Boulevard Beer, such as a bratwurst dish with a Boulevard Pale Ale mustard, and a fish and chips dish that uses a Boulevard brew in its batter. Plus, the restaurant will make suggestions on which Boulevard beer goes best with certain types of dishes.
(See, as I tell my wife, I'm not going there to drink beer. I'm going there to get a culinary education. Lawrence is an education town too, after all.)
Horton said the Holiday Inn became interested in a Boulevard Grill after the hotel's parent company opened one in the Sheraton Four Points hotel near Kansas City International.
"And Boulevard was very eager to get more exposure into Lawrence," Horton said. "As they said, it is a great beer town."
Horton said the restaurant will have a sports bar theme, and he hopes the establishment will appeal to local residents in addition to hotel guests. Plans call for the restaurant to be open only for evening meals, with an opening time of 5 p.m. on Sundays through Fridays. The restaurant, however, will open at noon on Saturdays.
In other news and notes from around town:
• I don't know if there is an actual policy needed on whether I should have two Boulevards with every bratwurst I consume, or three, but we do have a Douglas County Food Policy Council. (No word on whether the bratwurst issue is on a future agenda.) Soon, the Food Policy Council will be a joint endeavor with the city.
City commissioners at their meeting on Tuesday will consider adopting a resolution making the council a joint board of the city and county. City commissioners will appoint nine of the 23 members of the council. Some city commissioners had expressed an interest in the city becoming more involved in food policy issues.
County commissioners agreed, noting that the city already is making available city-owned land for the Common Ground program, which provides a place for urban gardening and farming to take place. The Food Policy Council, all joking aside, considers issues such as the population's access to locally grown food, issues related to agricultural sustainability and other such topics.
• Speaking of the Common Ground program, leaders of the effort have put together their annual report for 2013. The big number in the report is 40,000. That's the number of pounds of produce grown by gardeners in the program in 2013.
Organizers of the program are estimating about 120 gardeners took part in the program and tended gardens at nine different sites. Those sites produced an estimated 40,000 pounds of food that had a market value of about $80,000. About 2,000 pounds of food were donated to organizations such as Just Food, the Ballard Center, LINK and Central Middle School.
The program had 5.6 acres of ground in production in 2013, but that number is slated to grow in 2014. The city is adding three more sites in 2014, with each site ranging in size from 0.4 to 1.5 acres. People interested in farming on a site need to submit an application to the city by 5 p.m. on Jan. 6. The city is hosting an informational meeting about the program at 5 p.m. today at City Hall.
Applications can be found here.