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New battery store slated for west Lawrence; city provides report on snow preparations; Mother Earth News Fair seeks to return to city

I'm sure you've already experienced this, but basketball season is rough on batteries. There are the batteries for the TV remote, there are the batteries for the electronic beer delivery device, there are the batteries for the portable nacho cheese warmer, and don't even get me started about the batteries for the Andrew Wiggins robotron.

But, of course, you know all this because you deal with it too. What you may not know, though, is a new west Lawrence store is set to open that specializes in all types of batteries. Batteries Plus Bulbs is set to open at 6534 W. Sixth St. in the space that used to house the Blockbuster video store.

"We're looking to sell every kind of battery," said Ed Patel, owner of the Lawrence franchise. "If we don't carry them, we definitely have access to them."

When the store means batteries, it means batteries both big and small. The store plans to carry car, truck, motorcycle and golf cart batteries, for example. It plans to stock cellphone, camcorder, digital camera and laptop batteries as well. Patel said the business also thinks the store will do well with the construction industry. The store plans to carry a large selection of batteries for cordless tools, two-way radios and other such devices.

The store also will offer a battery refurbishing service, and it will recycle any type of battery for free.

As the name suggests, the store also will carry a large amount of light bulbs. Patel said the store's bulb stock will include automotive headlights and bulbs, and all the LED, CFL and halogen light bulbs that are used in home and business applications.

Patel decided to get into the battery and bulb business after he used a similar store in Topeka extensively during a remodeling project he undertook for a hotel he owns. He chose Lawrence for the store's location because he thought there was a niche to be filled in the market.

When I talked to Patel, he was still stocking the store, but he hoped to be open by the end of this week. Once open, the store will have hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

In other news and notes from around town:

• We may need some batteries for the electric ice scraper come Friday morning. The weather forecast is calling for some Thursday night precipitation that may turn into Friday morning ice or other wintry conditions.

At least that's what the crews with the city's public works department are keeping an eye on. City commissioners at their meeting last night were briefed on the city's annual snow plowing and winter weather preparations. There will be a change to the city's system this year, but one that officials are betting residents won't notice: A new manager is in charge of ensuring the city's streets are safe for winter driving.

Longtime street division manager Tom Orzulak retired earlier this year. He's been replaced by Mike Perkins, who previously was responsible for overseeing snow removal operations for Douglas County. Perkins spent about 12 years with the county before making the move over to the city earlier this year.

"We feel like we're in good shape," Perkins said of the upcoming winter season. "We would like to keep the snow away, but we think we're prepared."

As part of its annual report to city commissioners, the public works department did share some numbers about past snow seasons. Here's a look:

— The city spent $534,257 on snow and ice removal last season, which was up significantly from the $95,608 spent during the the 2011/2012 season.

— About 29 inches of snow fell in Lawrence last season compared with just 2.5 inches in the 2011/2012 season.

— The city used 3,462 tons of salt last season and 1,886 tons of sand. The city starts this year with 4,000 tons of salt, 1,000 tons of sand and about 2,500 tons of salt and sand mix.

• I bet you there is some sort of environmentally friendly product for removing snow — I'm thinking a team of alpacas with a plow made out of wheat straw — and I bet you that you could have found it at this year's Mother Earth News Fair in downtown Lawrence.

City commissioners also got an update on that event at last night's meeting and learned that there is a question about whether the popular event will return to Lawrence for a second year.

Bryan Welch, publisher and editorial director for the parent company of Mother Earth News magazine, said the event was a big success in downtown. An estimated 10,000 people showed up at Watson Park for the two-day fair in October. Based on ticket information, Welch estimated about 4,500 of the attendees had never visited Lawrence before, with many of them traveling more than 100 miles for the fair. That indicates the fair pumped a sizable amount of new money into the city's tourism industry and perhaps created some future visitors.

Welch said Mother Earth News, which is based in Topeka, is very interested in having another fair in Lawrence next fall, but there are questions about whether an appropriate downtown venue can be found. Welch would like to move the fair to South Park, which is significantly larger than Watson Park.

"We more than filled Watson Park this year," Welch said.

Based on experience with fairs in other communities, Welch is expecting ticket sales to grow by about 20 percent in year two. That would mean about 12,000 attendees at next year's fair.

He said he hopes to determine in the next few weeks whether South Park is available at a time that will work for the fair's schedule. City commissioners on Tuesday indicated they wanted to do what they could to bring the fair back to town.

Commissioners said they heard from several merchants and hotel owners across town that business was up during the fair.

"I'm sure we can be pretty accommodating with the location next year," Amyx told Welch at last night's meeting.

Reply 1 comment from Evan Jorn

Mother Earth News Fair expected to draw 10,000 to downtown Lawrence

Among the many, many . . . many things my wife is an expert on, Ed Begley Jr. is one.

If you are of a certain age, perhaps you remember him as one of the stars of the 1980s TV series "St. Elsewhere." If you are a fan of cheesy television, you may remember him as a recurring character on "Seventh Heaven." Or, if you are an aficionado of oddball reality shows (ding, ding, ding), he has his own program — "Living with Ed" — in which he shows off his environmental practices, such as using an electricity-producing bike to power his toaster.

Simply put, Ed Begley Jr. is why my house's thermostat is set at a "tropical" 87 degrees during the summer and a "refreshing" 57 degrees during the winter. More bluntly put, I cuss Ed Begley Jr. every time I stop at one of the many Gatorade stations I've set up in my house during the summer, and every time I traipse around the house in my alpaca robe in the winter.

Well, no one in the hotel, restaurant or hospitality industry in Lawrence is likely to cuss Begley this month. The actor/environmentalist is coming to Lawrence later this month as part of an event that is expected to bring 10,000 people to downtown.

The national publication Mother Earth News, based in Topeka, is hosting a Mother Earth News Fair on Oct. 12-13 in Watson Park. A representative of the sustainable living fair told me that the event is expected to draw 10,000 people,, based on ticket sales so far, and many of them will come from outside the area.

"We hosted a fair earlier this year just outside of Pittsburgh, and there was a guy there from Syracuse," said Brandy Ernzen, brand manager for Mother Earth News' parent company. "As he was leaving, he said, 'See you in Lawrence.'"

The event is touted as a place where you can learn everything from how to raise backyard chickens to how to use green building materials for your next remodeling project.

In addition to Begley, the event is set to feature several other nationally known speakers on the environment. They include Joel Salatin, an organic farmer and author who was profiled in the documentary Food Inc.; Dr Temple Grandin, an animal welfare expert; Eliot Coleman, organic gardner and author; and Woody Tasch, the founder and director of the Slow Money movement that seeks to fund local agricultural ventures.

The event is expected to put up about a dozen tents in Watson Park — the train park near Sixth and Kentucky — and feature about 150 workshops and about 200 vendors. Tickets sold at the event will cost $25 for a day or $35 for the weekend.

Plans call for Seventh Street between Kentucky and Tennessee streets to be closed for the weekend. The 600 block of Tennessee Street also is expected to be closed for a few hours on Oct. 13, a Sunday, to accommodate vendors who will be leaving the grounds.

Mother Earth News — which has about 530,000 paid subscribers — has been hosting the sustainable living fairs for about four years on the east and west coasts. But this is the first time the event has come to Lawrence, and it is the only one the magazine is hosting in the Midwest. Leaders with the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau are hoping the event can become a mainstay in the Lawrence convention scene. They also are intrigued by how the event is using Watson Park.

"They really are kind of turning Watson Park into a convention area," said Christine Metz Howard, communications manager for the CVB. "Our hope is that it will work well and create other possibilities in the future."

Hopefully one of those future events will be "Sensible Management of your Home's Thermostat." Either that, or some sort of event that allows me to get a bulk discount on Gatorade.

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