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.
Expect to see a few hundred enthusiasts of both Elvis and running in downtown Lawrence on June 22. A group of area Rotary Clubs will host a unique event: Elvis Visit to End Polio Now.
The event is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. at Watson Park with a 5K walk and run that will travel around the park and through the Old West Lawrence neighborhood. (Just to be clear, you don’t have to wear an Elvis costume to run, but all the cool kids will be.) The Rotary Clubs that evening will host a concert by noted Elvis tribute artist Joseph Hall at 7:30 p.m. at the Lied Center. Unless you are like me, the 5K run and walk shouldn’t take you until 7:30. (In my defense, blue suede shoes, a guitar, and 15 pounds of hair oil will slow a guy down.) Organizers will provide lunch to the runners, host several Elvis-themed contests, and also have some tours of Lawrence set up for out-of-town visitors to enjoy before the concert.
The event is part of Rotary’s effort to eradicate polio, which is known to still exist in three countries: Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan. Rotary has made eradicating polio by 2018 a major international mission for years, but this is the first time they have enlisted the help of the King. The idea of combining the worldwide brand of Elvis with the worldwide effort to end polio was the brainchild of Lawrence Rotarian Bob Swan.
“I just felt like we needed a new tool to fight polio,” said Swan, a member of Lawrence’s Central Rotary Club. “We need to do something to get the support of nonRotarians.”
Swan had seen Hall — who was a finalist on the television program America’s Got Talent — perform several time at Branson, Mo. Swan figured nothing packs in a crowd like Elvis, so he began planting the seed of an Elvis-themed fundraising event.
Members of about a dozen area Rotary Clubs have helped organize the event. Proceeds from both the concert and the run will go to Rotary’s worldwide fund to fight polio. Swan said he hopes the event will raise several thousand dollars, and will become a model for area Rotary clubs across the country to use in fundraising.
But if Elvis isn’t your thing, there will be another celebrity of a sorts on hand. Mary Jean Eisenhower, a granddaughter of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, is lending her support to the event. Eisenhower — who is a Kansas City area resident and has been a leader of the People to People International organization founded by her grandfather — is a polio survivor, and plans to be on hand for both the race and the concert event.
People interested in more information on either the race or the concert, can find additional details at elvisendspolio.org.
Lawrence city commissioners at their meeting tonight are being asked to give final approval for the group’s use of Watson Park for the race and associated events. The item is on the city’s consent agenda, so approval is not expected to be a problem.
UPDATE: Since we're talking about Elvis, I also put a call into Downtown Lawrence Inc. to see if it was again planning to host its Elvis Spectacular, an event where numerous Elvis personalities come to downtown. Well, you are in luck King fans. The second annual event is set for Sept. 28. It will be held in conjunction with the Rev It Up car show that is held in and along South Park. Look for more details as the event gets closer. But DLI director tells me the event will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of "Viva Las Vegas."