Even though Barb Siedlik has been coordinating Lawnchairs on the Square for the last eight years, she still gets nervous every time she has to welcome people to the opening event.
“The first night, walking up on stage, I don’t care how many millions of times (you’ve done it), every time that first performance or first night comes, my feet are shaking,” Siedlik said. “I don’t know how I climb up those stairs to announce, ‘Welcome to Lawnchairs on the Square.’”
Those butterflies will return to Siedlik’s stomach Thursday night as she rings in another summer of fun and variety at Frankfort Square downtown. The initial performance, as usual, will include Columbus’ three dance studios: iDance Project, Barb’s School of Dance and Desiree’s Dancers and Lynette’s Dance Studio. While most performances will begin at 7 p.m., Thursday’s inaugural performance will open at 6 p.m.
Regardless, people should expect a wide variety of musicians and performers suited for people of all ages.
“With the Lawnchairs (on the Square), we have performances for everyone,” Siedlik said. “We have bluegrass, we have country-western, classic rock, jazz, the Brits (and) we always try to get one of our military bands in.”
Lawnchairs on the Square has been a downtown tradition for over 50 years, but it wasn’t until 1987 that the Downtown Business Association (DBA) took over the event. Originally held on Friday nights, it was moved to Thursdays due to a conflict with local bands. Now, after more than 32 years of being held on Thursdays, the events remain an integral part of Columbus summers for many.
“This is something that we bring to the community,” Siedlik said. “It’s free entertainment. It’s just really nice. It’s a nice get-together. We always try to do community projects and we always try to keep it (as) a little bit of an old-fashioned taste. People always had get-togethers, like a street dance in a park or whatever. You work hard, you go out and you play hard. That’s what the Thursday nights (are) all about.”
Siedlik and company have help from plenty of volunteers and sponsors ready to set up the stage, sprinkle some sugar on a funnel cake or when polka musicians come to town, grill some Polish dogs. Siedlik couldn’t thank the numerous volunteers and sponsors who assist with the event enough for their generosity and time.
“If we didn’t have sponsors for the Downtown (Business) Association to sell ads, we wouldn’t be able to bring this to the community,” Siedlik said. “This is not a one-man project. This is a downtown and community project. We’ve had volunteers, not only our downtown members, but also the different schools have volunteered, especially if they need any type of service hours. Some adults who have retired from our businesses downtown come down and help with funnel cakes. It’s just neat. It’s a lot of fun.”
Some sponsors are ready to jump in for their first taste of Lawnchairs on the Square. The Friedhof Building will sponsor Thursday’s event alongside Platte Valley Printing. Platte Valley Printing’s founder, Steve Hurt, nearly had his band perform during one of the events, but due to scheduling issues he decided to be a sponsor instead.
“Unfortunately, with his busy schedule at work, he just couldn’t get scheduled in,” Siedlik said. “He went ahead and said, ‘Hey, I’m willing to cosponsor,” and the Friedhof Building wanted to cosponsor. When you co-sponsor, you can get other people.”
Siedlik hopes that the events can continue to pull people in from all over the state. She said she has seen people travel more than 50 miles to attend various performances, adding that they were very complimentary of the evening.
“We pull people in from more than a 50-mile radius,” Siedlik said. “I’ve seen people from the Dwight and Seward area, a couple of people from Ulysses, I’ve seen a lot of my own clients from Fullerton and Genoa, even from Norfolk, St. Edward (and) our local ones from Rising City and Shelby, of course. It’s amazing. I’m hoping for great attendance, and God willing, great weather.”
Zach Roth is a reporter for the Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.