From shopping to dining to buskers, downtown Lawrence to host Midsummer Night event on Friday

photo by: Mike Yoder

University of Kansas senior Grace Worden picks up plates to buy at Phoenix Gallery, 825 Massachusetts St., at the Mid Summer Night on Mass sale on Friday, June 23, 2023, in downtown Lawrence.

Fortunately, shopping isn’t like swimming. You don’t have to wait 30 minutes since you’ve last eaten. (I’m staying optimistic that day will come.) You can shop on an empty stomach. You can shop on a full stomach.

You can even do both, and if you do, you are in the right frame of mind for downtown Lawrence’s Midsummer Night on Mass event, which is set for Friday.

“People enjoy doing both ends,” Downtown Lawrence Inc. director Andrew Holt said. “Do some shopping, eat dinner and then shop again.”

That normally isn’t an easy task in downtown. Many merchants there have shunned mall-like hours in favor of closing times closer to 6 or 7 on many evenings. But on Friday, the Midsummer Night event runs from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Holt thinks last year’s inaugural event drove home a message to retailers about how much people like to shop after sundown.

“The biggest thing everyone learned is that the public was certainly ready to shop until 10,” Holt said when asked about takeaways from last year’s event. “There was a learning curve there. Even though we promoted it until 10, there were people surprised that the public was ready to shop at night and enjoy the whole environment.”

Holt thinks more downtown merchants this year will be open until 10 p.m. as part of Friday’s event.

“We are encouraging everyone to be ready and to be staffed until 10,” Holt said.

In case you have forgotten, the origins of the Midsummer Night event do come out of shopping. Last year’s event served as a replacement for the longtime Downtown Lawrence Sidewalk Sale. That event, always held in July, drew thousands to downtown to sort through tables of marked-down merchandise that retailers put on the sidewalks in front of their stores.

But that event was held from sunup to sundown, and sometimes the best deal was if you could find a shady spot to lean along Mass. Street. In other words, the heat was often a complaint. Now, the event is a month earlier and is focused more on the evening hours.

The idea of the event being a sidewalk sale has remained to some degree. Some retailers still bring merchandise out to the sidewalk, but others simply create deals for their indoor showrooms. The bottom line is, the event still has deals to offer.

“Shoppers are probably going to see things on sale that aren’t normally on sale,” Holt said.

The sidewalk sale also was known for having goofy things going on around it, ranging from carnival barkers to random musicians. There will be some of that vibe as well on Friday. Holt said Downtown Lawrence Inc. has arranged for several unique talents to be on hand during the 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. hours. Those include a caricature artist, a juggler/acrobat act, someone who does face painting, and an ever-popular balloon animal booth, among others.

“There is a lot of organic entertainment too,” Holt said. “There are a lot of buskers that know this is going on and just come down. We are fine with that.”

It all adds to the vibe that Downtown Lawrence Inc. and event organizers are seeking, Holt said.

“We just want people to have a really positive experience downtown,” Holt said. “It is a sidewalk sale, but more than a sidewalk sale. It is a showcase of downtown. More than anything, though, it is a community event. We want people to come and have a good time.”


Look for other events in downtown this summer. Holt confirmed downtown is working with KU on a couple of events. KU last year hosted its second annual Rock Chalk Block Party in downtown. That event traditionally has been tied to KU’s homecoming celebration, but this year is scheduled to happen in conjunction with Family Weekend at KU.

KU has announced the event will be on Friday, Sept. 27, which is the start of Family Weekend activities. KU officials also have confirmed they are bringing a major musical act to the event, with an announcement expected in the next week or so.

Holt also said planning is underway for a possible event on the weekend of Aug. 24, which is the last weekend before classes begin on the KU campus. That event is being envisioned as a back-to-school party. Look for more details of that in the future.

Holt also said discussions continue with KU on how to have game day parties in Lawrence, even though KU is playing its home football games in a couple of locations in Kansas City due to the construction work underway at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.

Holt said current conversations involve the idea of creating a tailgate party zone in Lawrence for each KU game day. The party zone would shift throughout the city from game to game. The idea is that businesses in the zone would benefit from special marketing that KU Athletics would do leading up to the game. Downtown, presumably, will be chosen to host some of those game day parties. Other details, though, aren’t yet available.

“Everything is still very much in the planning stages,” Holt said.


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