First Friday meets expectations, committee ready for fifth year

PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot
The First Friday committee has the schedule well-organized for this year. Pictured are several of the planners, from left: Karen Amsley, Marissa Burt, Susan Shaffer and John Gamble.

First Friday is five years old, and people involved in the planning are thrilled with where it has been and where it is headed.

Marissa Burt and Karen Amsley have been around from the start, and this year are committee chairs. The event is sponsored by the Greencastle-Antrim Chamber of Commerce and the Greencastle Area Arts Council. John Gamble and Susan Shaffer are the artist coordinators, Fran Kenawell and Ryan Stahl are in charge of entertainment, and Joel Fridgen and Ruth Mowen are handling food. Waste Management just signed on as corporate sponsor for the season.

The beginning

The intent of First Friday was to showcase the business and arts community in downtown Greencastle, said Gamble. It was a way to draw people to town. Also part of the original crew, he saw the results over five years of offering monthly activities in the warmer months.

“Greencastle has become a destination,” he said.

Amsley noted the focus is the same in 2014 as in 2010, but the evening has increased in scope. Attendance has grown markedly.

Many new storefronts have opened which appeal to First Friday visitors. Exhibiting artists this year will be juried by members of the Arts Council. Anyone interested in showcasing their works may contact Shaffer at susan@joyfulartstudio.com Children’s activities are also on the upswing, and high school Art Club students, under the supervision of Carolyn Baker, will host projects at Greencastle Church of the Brethren. Young children can participate in age-appropriate activities in the Century Inc. parking lot, with Heidi Coble leading them. Students and six artists will present artwork at Gallery 7 in May and June at 107 E. Baltimore St.

Memories

Committee members recalled favorite memories of past First Fridays. Amsley reminded them how their spouses used to serve beer and wine at the initial tastings. A display of works by Greencastle Senior Center artists touched Gamble.

“It was very special for them. They were so proud.”

Shaffer enjoyed seeing how many people came out each Friday, and brought their kids. Burt said they realized First Friday was truly successful after observing “people walking the streets, listening to the music and having a good time.”

“The landscape has changed a lot, which enhances the event,” she said. “We have a town which has it all.”

This season

Each committee member concentrates on specific duties. Mowen is helping line up food vendors for the next five months, skipping July 4 due to the holiday.

“We’re trying  to match the menu with the theme,” she said.

On May 2 the emphasis is Cinco de Mayo Fiesta. June 6 is the anniversary celebration, and will include a sock hop. Aug. 1 is Smokin’ Jazz, Sept. 5 is Broadway Hits Greencastle, and Oct. 3 is Rockin’ into Fall.

Kenawell has booked most of the muscial performers, including Karensa Gray, Rudy and the Bluefish, and New Horizon. He found deejays who not only play songs, but also have an entertaining presentation, and still wants a mariachi band for May.

“We also want to bring people to all of downtown, not just to Center Square,” he said.

He is rounding up strolling musicians for that.

The First Friday committee has been hard at work, and the fruits of their labor will be evident soon.