Lawrence sits along the banks of the Wakarusa and Kaw rivers about 41 miles southwest of Kansas City. It has a population of 80,098, making it the 6th largest city in Kansas. The city is home to the University of Kansas and Haskell Indian Nations University. Due largely in part to Lawrence’s college town liberalism, the city is reliably democratic, whereas Kansas is a Republican state. Lawrence is the seat of Douglas County, one of the only two counties in the state to vote for John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election. Douglas was also the only county in Kansas to reject the amendment to the Kansas Constitution prohibiting gay marriage and civil unions in 2005.
Lawrence has a culture filled with political activism, music, theater and art. The city features a radical library and infoshop, two microbreweries, several locally-owned coffee shops, and a law protecting gay people from discrimination. Massachusetts Street, in downtown Lawrence, has a lively array of bars, restaurants, music venues, art galleries and shops. The city is particularly known for its prolific music scene; Rolling Stone magazine called Lawrence one of the “best lil’ college towns” in the country, while The New York Times has claimed that the city has “the most vital music scene between Chicago and Denver.”
Each year in August, Lawrence hosts the North vs. South Music Festival, a good-humored reenactment of Quantrill’s Raid, a famous Civil War battle. The festival usually features 40 or more independent rock bands. Since 2004, Lawrence has also hosted the Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival, featuring artists of rock, funk, bluegrass, jam, electronic, and folk music genres. In addition to its artistic atmosphere, Lawrence is also famous for the University of Kansas’s athletic teams. The Kansas Jayhawks, in particular, are highly ranked and draw the interest of many during basketball season. For those who enjoy outdoor recreation, Lawrence offers a variety of opportunities, including boating, swimming, camping and fishing at Clinton Lake, as well as hiking and biking trails. There is something for just about everyone in Lawrence, Kansas.