Lawrencians at their best when rubbing elbows

Everybody needs a little Sousa now and again.

This is as true of me as it is for everybody else. Shockingly, however, I'd lived six summers in Lawrence without ever attending a Wednesday night City Band concert in South Park.

So last week, my fiancee and I gathered up our blue blanket and headed to the gazebo. I'm not sure what I expected to find - a bunch of sedate march lovers, perhaps? - but I wasn't expecting a party.

That's what we found, though. We had to make our way past throngs of Frisbee throwers, rugby players and jugglers to find a spot on the South Park lawn among the hundreds of people who were there to listen to the brass and woodwinds and Hank Booth's announcing prowess.

The music was good; would you expect anything less in Lawrence? What was so enjoyable about the evening, though, was the sense of community. The bulk of the crowd was gray-haired, yes, but there were plenty of younger folks there, many of them parents bringing their children out for a good time.

Lawrence is at its best when we come together and rub elbows in a common place. A few years back, we had Robert Putnam in town to talk about the growing nationwide problem of people "Bowling Alone" and forsaking the bonds of community. Last week, researchers announced that Americans have fewer close friends than they did 50 years ago.

We're becoming more isolated all the time, experts tell us, abandoning eye-to-eye contact and flesh-and-blood encounters for online Sim City games and shrill arguments between anonymous bloggers.

And maybe that trend is taking hold here. What I know is this: Lawrence is resisting.

We love our block parties and our coffee shops and our parades for every conceivable occasion - I seriously have never known a town that loves its parades so much.

We like one another. And we like being around one another. And maybe that makes us old-fashioned; so be it.

I experienced that feeling again on Saturday morning, when we went to the Lawrence Farmers Market downtown. My fiancee likes to buy fresh flowers every week; I'm happy to get a Flory sausage biscuit for breakfast.

The best part of it, though, is wandering around. We never fail to run into friends, often linger to listen to the live music and always walk away with a renewed sense of how much we love Lawrence.

There always will be worries that Lawrence is changing too much, too fast, that we're becoming like every other place. As long as there are summer band concerts and Saturday sausage biscuits, though, I won't worry too much.


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