The start of 2021 seems like an eternity ago, yet it has flown by in the blink of an eye, amiright? It must’ve been fun if the old saying is true. At the very least, it’s been quite busy. That’s made evident by the number of things that came to mind while writing this blog. Let’s get to it; here’s my list of Unmistakable Moments of 2021 in Lawrence, Kansas for the:
Restaurants spent much of 2020 figuring things out. Think safety protocols, curbside pick-up, outdoor dining, and everything about how to survive in a pandemic world. In 2021 we saw the local restaurant industry's arduous work and resilience pay off as dining resumed in more convenient, safe, and accommodating ways than ever before.
Lawrence Restaurant Week transformed into a city-wide event and featured pick-up and delivery options. (Something that will continue in 2022.)
Outdoor dining was a big hit throughout the year, and the transformation of Downtown parklets into outdoor seating for restaurants expanded the opportunities for dining outdoor safely.
Shout out to the new restaurants that brought incredible flavors from all around to the middle of the map in 2021.
Kaw Valley FC was selected as a founding member of the new United Soccer League (USL) Women’s League, which will begin play in 2022 and provide an elite pre-professional pathway for women looking to build their careers both on and off the pitch.
The Kansas Jayhawks football season kicked off with a brand new coach, lots of fans in the stands, and a home win against South Dakota. Although Kansas didn’t get another home win the rest of the season (there were some hard-fought close losses), a road win against Texas raised the eyebrows of the Jayhawk faithful and created an energy around Kansas football that’s been missing for far too long.
Kansas basketball came back to a packed house with Late Night in the Phog and an incredible performance by Run DMC in October. The energy in Allen Fieldhouse has been intense all year, but no game was louder than the return of the Border War rivalry, Kansas vs. Mizzou. The Jayhawks handed the Tigers a 37-point loss, and it felt oh so good.
Lawrence hosted the Belgian Waffle Ride for the first time, a weekend of bike racing for professionals and amateurs alike. The weekend of gravel racing brought riders from all over the world to Lawrence. Lawrence had the most women cyclists in the Belgian Waffle Ride’s history.
ARTS & CULTURE ENTHUSIAST
A mural here, a mural there. It seemed like everywhere I looked in 2021, a new mural was popping up. Owen’s Flower Shop, Naismith Place Apartments, Cottin’s, and more. Stay tuned as eXplore Lawrence begins documenting the locations of Lawrence murals in 2022!
A first-to-be-seen-anywhere-in-the-whole-wide-world exhibit made its debut at the Lawrence Arts Center. Ghosts of Segregation | Photographs by Richard Frishman explores the lingering presence of segregation, slavery, and institutional racism hidden in everyday American architecture. A personal highlight was meeting Mr. Frishman while exploring the exhibit and directly hearing why he pursued this important and uncomfortable project.
The KU Common Work of Art for 2021-2022 is Native Hosts, a series of five panels displayed on the Spencer Museum of Art lawn. The panels name Native tribes who historically or currently inhabit the Kansas region. Unfortunately, panels were stolen, and others were vandalized in two separate incidents. The panels have since been reinstalled and will be available for viewing through Spring 2022.
One sad August morning, we awoke to the news that the Wishing Bench, a grassroots arts installation that invites all to sit and make a wish, caught fire and sustained heavy damage. The East Lawrence Neighborhood Association and area artists and residents sprung to restore the bench to its former whimsical glory. The Wishing Bench is back open for wishes!
After a year off, we kicked it big time with the return of annual events Lawrence PRIDE, Free State Festival (Drive-In Style), Lawrence Busker Festival, Downtown Holiday Lighting & Santa Rescue, and the Lawrence Old-Fashioned Christmas Parade.
The show must go on, right? Of course, and that’s why it was so exciting when our performing arts venues announced their live performance schedules. A couple we won’t soon forget… Elf at Theatre Lawrence and Hip Hop Nutcracker at The Lied Center.
LIVE MUSIC LOVER
In addition to the return of in-person events came the return of the sounds of live music through the streets of Lawrence. Local and touring acts took to the stages, starting with patio shows, then to our indoor venues. The buzz from the bands is that the fans at the Lawrence shows are lit! Live on Mass presented Citizen Cope on stage on the 1000 block of Mass Street and Lawrence felt a sense of normalcy not felt in quite some time. A couple of months later, Michael Franti kicked off the Belgian Waffle Ride with an outdoor concert that had people dancing and smiling from ear to ear.
Those yearning for entertainment came in force to the weekly Thursday Night drag shows at The Jazzhaus when they started back up again. From what I hear, no place does drag quite like Lawrence. Chalk that up to another reason we call ourselves unmistakable.
The Watkins Museum of History was the founding institution for the Encountering John Brown traveling exhibit in 2021. From September until November, the Watkins welcomed visitors to be the first to see the show, which shared the story of John Brown through the eyes of those who knew him. Events throughout the community celebrated Lawrence and the surrounding area’s connection to the infamous abolitionist.
The KU Natural History Museum was the center of attention in September as a stinky “Corpse Flower” was getting ready to bloom. It sounds like something you’d want to stay away from, but considering that the rare species blooms for one day only about once a decade, it was a bucket-list situation for plant people to see it in person.
Senator Robert J. Dole passed away on December 5, 2021. The Dole Institute of Politics located on the University of Kansas west campus houses Senator Dole’s congressional papers and serves as a bipartisan forum to discuss political and economic issues and features exhibits that tell his story. The institute will forever be a place where all people can learn about his fascinating life and legacy.
There you have it. My unmistakable moments of a pretty darn good year, especially considering what we were coming off of! Cheers to you and yours. Here’s to heading into 2022 with hope and optimism for an even better year full of unmistakable moments.