Well, it looks like a certain basketball-oriented celebration that has been known to close downtown streets has been called off this year. But fear not, there will still be plenty of opportunities to celebrate — and close downtown streets — in the coming weeks.
What sort of a lineup have we got scheduled? What would you say if I told you that you could take out your hatred on tick-borne diseases by participating in a 5K race that will go through downtown and parts of East Lawrence? I would say if you are still ticked off about the KU-Michigan game, here’s your chance to actually take it out on the ticks. (Yeah, that joke sucked. Most tick jokes do.)
Mark your calendar for 8 a.m. on Saturday, May 11: The Kansas Tick-Borne Disease Advocates will host a race that will begin on Massachusetts Street at South Park, go through downtown to Seventh Street, head into East Lawrence, loop back onto Massachusetts Street at 15th Street and then finish at South Park. Massachusetts Street will be closed for a few minutes at a time as the runners come by in waves.
Several other events either have been approved or are in the process of being approved for the downtown in coming weeks. Here’s a look:
• At 8 a.m. on Monday, May 27 — Memorial Day — organizers will host The Home Run 5K in downtown Lawrence, an event that benefits Family Promise and the Lawrence Community Shelter. Perhaps the Royals pitching staff will participate. They usually are at the scene of a home run. (Yes, I’m a true Royals fan. I know Opening Day is not too early to lose your optimism about the team.)
The race will use the same route as the tick-borne awareness race. City officials, I believe, are trying to convince more events to use that route because it requires fewer resources from the Police Department to control traffic, and it introduces people to the city’s Burroughs Creek Trail that runs through East Lawrence.
• The Tour of Lawrence bicycle races will be back in Lawrence from June 28 through June 30. Once again, the events will happen both downtown and on the KU campus.
On Friday, June 28, downtown will host the Street Sprint portion of the tour. The 700 and 800 blocks of New Hampshire will be closed from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on June 28. That’s where the sprinting will take place. Eighth Street between New Hampshire and Massachusetts will be closed from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. on June 28. That's where the post-sprint celebrating will take place. The area will have a kids zone and live music, and adult beverages also will be sold.
A word of warning to people who park along New Hampshire Street: Be sure to move your car by 5 p.m. on that day, because towing will take place to ensure the race route is clear. (It's a Friday, so you can tell your boss that it's super critical you be out of the office by 5 p.m. I think I’ll park there.)
On Saturday, June 29, the racing will shift to the KU campus. Several streets on and near the campus will be impacted by the race but none will be completely closed. Here’s a look at that route and others used during the tour.
On Sunday, June 30, the event will finish with a Downtown Criterium, which is kind of like bicycle’s version of NASCAR short track racing, except the pit crews don’t fight at the end of each race. (The spandex must have a calming effect. Maybe NASCAR should try it.) It really is some action-packed racing, and it will require several streets in downtown to be closed from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. That includes much of Massachusetts Street and parts of New Hampshire and Vermont.
As in the past, the event will receive $10,000 from the city’s transient guest tax fund. The event will use the money to help attract elite teams to the race. This year the money also will be used to increase marketing to cyclists in the Chicago and Dallas areas.
• And finally, on the weekend of Sept.14-15, an estimated 2,000 cyclists once again will be camping overnight in downtown Lawrence. The 2013 Bike MS event is set to take place from 6 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, to noon Sunday, Sept. 15, in South Park.
In case you don’t remember the event — which will be making its third appearance in Lawrence — it is a fundraiser for the Mid-America Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Near as I can tell, cyclists ride miles and miles — from the Garmin headquarters in Olathe to South Park — to justify partaking in a large beer tent that has been sponsored by an area brewing company in the past. (Personally, I just drink light beer and skip the miles and miles of cycling part.)
In addition to riders coming from the east, a separate group also will be leaving from Topeka to ride to South Park.
The event will require Massachusetts Street from North Park and South Park streets to be closed from 6 a.m. Sept. 14 to noon on Sept. 15. The Community Building Parking lot also will be closed at that time. Both South Park and the Community Building will be used as an overnight “Cycle Village.”
• This last event isn’t a race and it won’t impact traffic in downtown. But I thought I would mention it anyway because it may impact traffic near 27th and Iowa streets. At least it is likely to when my wife is driving by it, becomes distracted by it and uses the Ford Taurus to create a new drive-thru at the nearby Runza restaurant. Beginning April 13 and lasting for the entire week, there will be 5,860 multi-colored flags stuck into the ground near the southeast corner of 27th and Iowa Streets — in front of Landmark Bank and Runza.
The flags — about 20 inches high — will be commemorating the Week of the Young Child. The 5,860 number is meant to be one flag for every child that is in childcare in Lawrence. The flag idea is being put together by Child Care Aware of Northeast and North Central Kansas, a nonprofit group based in Lawrence.
So, don’t be distracted. I’ve warned you. But Runza folks, if you see a maroon Taurus with a driver pointing at the pretty flags, I’d take cover behind the counter.
Dandelions are the sure sign of spring in some communities. In Lawrence, it is street parties. During the last several years, closing a city street to host an event has grown in popularity. This year will be no exception. City officials are processing a bunch of requests for upcoming events. Here’s a look:
• For the third straight year, the Kansas Relays plans to use downtown Lawrence as a venue for two of its top events. From 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, April 17 the intersection of Eighth and New Hampshire streets will become the site of the Relays top-flight shot put competition. About 10 world class shot putters are expected to compete. The intersection and the 100 block of East Eighth Street will be closed from 6 a.m. Wednesday to 6 a.m. Thursday while city crews build and then dismantle the shot put venue. As in past years, the 100 block of East Eighth Street also will be an entertainment zone, which will have a special permit from City Hall to allow outdoor beer sales. The shot put event gets rave reviews and draws large crowds. But when you write it down, it does sound a bit odd: The combination of shot putters, a city street and a party. Sounds to me like we have the plot for a hit cable television reality show.
• The following day — from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. April 18 — the relays will be in another part of downtown for its annual top-tier women’s long jump competition. That competition, in the 100 block of West Eighth Street, will close that block from 11 a.m. to midnight. Like the shot put event, there will be an entertainment zone surrounding the competition, including outdoor alcohol sales. Eight to 10 athletes are expected to compete. I haven’t heard yet who that group will include, but it could be particularly exciting. As of last week, KU has the NCAA Indoor National Champion long jumper in Andrea Geubelle.
• Watching an athlete run and jump more than 20 feet in the air seems like an artistic event to me — especially if I can do it while having an adult beverage — but if you are looking for a more traditional art event, one is on the way. The Lawrence Art Guild will host its annual Art in the Park art fair in South Park on May 5. The Sunday event will close Massachusetts Street from North Park Street to South Park Street from 6 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on May 5.
• This one isn’t in a city street, but it is a rite of spring for those of us who have grease under our fingernails from time to time. The local chapter of the Antique Automobile Club of America on May 3-5 will host its annual swap meet at the Douglas County Fairgrounds. This event is your chance to walk through rows and rows of auto parts and amaze your friends by pointing at items and saying things such as: “Timing belt for a ’49 Ford.” What? You can do that, right? (I certainly can, as long as no one with me knows what a timing belt off a ’49 Ford looks like.)
In case you are keeping track at home, the city is involved with this event just a bit because it is allowing a portion of the former Farmland Industries fertilizer plant to be used as parking for the event. Some readers in the past have asked whether a portion of the Farmland property will be used to permanently expand the adjacent Douglas County Fairgrounds. That was a plan at one point in time. There are maps at City Hall that show a portion of the Farmland property being used for the fairgrounds. But it appears as the project has evolved, that idea has fallen by the wayside. The more recent plans for the property show the spot once set aside for the fairgrounds being used for industrial lots, which is how the bulk of the 400-plus acre property will be used.
This year’s event will be the 50th anniversary for the swap meet.
• If fixed up cars, rather than ones in parts and pieces are more your style, there’s an event for you. On Saturday, Sept. 28, downtown will host the Rev it Up Hot Rod Hullabaloo car show. The Saturday event will close Massachusetts Street from 11th to 13th streets from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
If none of those events is quite your style, don’t worry. There will be plenty more. Lawrence provides almost everyone an opportunity to stand in the middle of a street and partake in something.