This past weekend, my 10th Downtown Days event since I moved back to the area from Iowa, proved yet again that Mother Nature has some sort of issue with our annual festival in the heart of Lee’s Summit.
Maybe it’s the fried Oreos (hope not). Maybe it’s all the food on a stick (please, no). Perhaps it’s the intoxicating scent of cotton candy/beer/sweat/Greek food.
Whatever the case, She sure has had issues with us over the years.
When She’s not walloping us with heat and humidity, the keeper of the weather brings winds, rain, hail, thunderstorms and enough unpredictability to fill an entire season.
And, occasionally, She delivers mild, comfortable weather.
Such was the case this past Downtown Days when — after a couldn’t-see-it-coming backhand brought 70-plus-mile-hour wind gusts and massive damage — the temperatures settled down for a day of reprieve, a rarity during this annual ritual the first weekend in June.
It’s almost like Mother Nature owed us at least that when she took power from tens of thousands of customers, wiped out a dozen or more tents in the festival area and left vendors and volunteers cleaning up for hours to try and get Downtown Days opened by noon on Saturday.
If She had added the injury of 100-degree heat indexes to the insult of no power and air conditioning, it would have been just nearly unforgivable.
In my decade of Downtown Days work, I felt like I had seen it all up to this weekend — Tornado Warnings, massive rains that ruined merchandise, high winds and heat that took away crowds for hours.
What we all woke up to Saturday morning set a new bar for bizarre.
Tree limbs strewn all over the perimeter of downtown Lee’s Summit were joined by mass collapses inside the festival area.
Of course, what happened over the next few hours to get it up and running was not the exception of Downtown Days. It was the rule of what happens in our heart — volunteerism.
Downtown Days committee members and weekend volunteers, Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street staff, downtown residents and even business owners in our downtown core came out to clean up, move tents off other tents and get the festival ready for a delayed opening.
Much like the drum beat of neighbors-helping-neighbors with yard waste that was likely the case all over Lee’s Summit that morning, the organization in downtown was focused and furious and, as is to be expected, built on a foundation that working together means we keep the heart of our downtown up and running, no matter what.
Saturday morning — and really, into the entire day — was difficult for many. Restaurant, bar, coffee shop and retail owners (not to mention Downtown Days food vendors without power) were unable to open for hours if not the entire day. The mild weather notwithstanding, the pre-dawn storm effects lingered well into the weekend.
Keeping that in mind, we should start to think of the weeks after Downtown Days as the best time to support our dozens and dozens of locally-owned businesses in our downtown.
Because after the tents and rides and vendors have moved on, the men and women opening up shop day in and day out in our heart need 365 attention and backing.
Editor's Note: John Beaudoin is a Lee's Summit resident and award winning writer and former newspaper publisher in the Lee's Summit community. Views and opinions expressed in his columns do not necessarily reflect those of Link 2 Lee's Summit, it's employees or any other guest contributors.