Rain dampens crowd, but not enthusiasm, at First Friday

Friday, Aug 3, 2012 10:38 PM
Last updated Saturday, Aug 4, 2012 1:52 AM
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August’s First Friday was widely regarded by organizers, visitors and business owners as better coordinated and safer, thanks to a clear show of force from the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office.

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Myles McKnight juggles for people as they pass by during First Friday festivities in Augusta.  MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
Myles McKnight juggles for people as they pass by during First Friday festivities in Augusta.

Working from a mobile command center at Sixth and Broad streets, sheriff’s deputies could be seen consistently along Broad Street from Fifth to 13th Street. Almost every corner had two or three police cars parked throughout the evening. The fire department and Gold Cross EMS also parked people and vehicles downtown.

The event went on without any major incidents, but authorities said rain kept the crowds from gathering as they had in previous months. Lightning started around 8:30 p.m., and the rain followed about an hour later, when First Friday was officially over.

“We wish this was a sign of how First Friday was going to be from now on,” sheriff’s Capt. Scott Gay said. “But the weather had a huge impact on the crowds being minimal.”

After the July event, a shooting on Broad Street injured six people, prompting discussions about downtown security. While some people called for an end to the event, a task force consisting of city officials and headed by City Administrator Fred Russell recommended more police officers, tighter vendor control and improved cleanup efforts.

Starting this month, city officials made the License and Inspection department responsible for unlicensed vendors. Director Rob Sherman and Augusta’s Planning and Development Director George Patty said they asked at least four unlicensed vendors to pack up by 7:30 p.m.

Margaret Woodard, the executive director of the Downtown Development Authority, said that there appeared to be fewer vendors but more people.

Vern Brown, of Atlanta, sold artwork Friday night on the corner of Broad and 10th streets, as he has every month for five years. He said the shooting incident didn’t keep him from returning.

Art gallery and restaurant owners said the crowd was similar to or larger than crowds in past months.

“Everyone seems to be in a really good spirit. I, for one, am really happy to be here,” said Allison May, who helps the owner of Art on Broad every First Friday. “Clearly, a lot of people feel the same way.”

Jai West, the owner of Casa Blanca, said her restaurant, which usually fills up by 7:30 p.m. on First Friday, was full by 5:30.

“Finally, after such a long time, people are paying attention to First Friday. It’s great for it to start being run the way it should be,” West said.

Two Clean Augusta Downtown Initiative employees were walking Broad Street, and two more were on bicycle and Segway patrolling the Augusta Common, the Jessye Norman Amphitheater and Springfield Park, Woodard said.

The Westobou Festival steering committee, the Friends With Benefits Fund and downtown business owner CoCo Rubio held an event that began at 5 p.m. on Augusta Common with music, food and non-alcoholic drinks. At 8 p.m., a ticketed concert was held at the Jessye Norman Amphitheater featuring local bands Funk You, Stewart and Winfield, and the headliner, Bloodkin. Organizers expected about 1,000 people but admitted the rain could have kept people away.

Friends Laura Perry and Lisa Durst braved the weather to support First Friday.

“(First Friday) is a good thing we have in Augusta,” Perry said. “Don’t let bad things drive you away. Let’s keep it going.”

Sheneika and Robert Lofton, of North Augusta, attended First Friday for the first time in five years. The couple ate dinner at Soy Noodle House on Broad Street, listened to a seven-piece brass band and planned to visit vendors.

“I’m glad the city chose to fight for this to keep it going. It’d be a shame for this not to happen because of a few bad people,” Sheneika Lofton said.

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countyman
19542
Points
countyman 08/04/12 - 12:44 am
6
3
I'm glad to see Augusta

I'm glad to see Augusta continuing to grow up.. The CBD is the heartbeat of the metro and CSRA... Every single city across the US has nice suburbs, but not a vibrant downtown... Local citizens need to understand they have the power to change neighborhoods, schools, streets, etc by themselves... If we continue to support downtown then Publix or Gap/Old Navy will follow.. The rapid growth at Augusta Regional and Olde Town now starting to attract families proves it can be done..

boredinaug
97
Points
boredinaug 08/04/12 - 01:16 am
8
1
"Working from a mobile

"Working from a mobile command center at Sixth and Broad streets, sheriff’s deputies could be seen consistently along Broad Street from Fifth to 13th Street. Almost every corner had two or three police cars parked throughout the evening. The fire department and Gold Cross EMS also parked people and vehicles downtown."

WOW...Is this what it takes to have an even downtown go off without incident in the downtown area? I'm confused by all of this. I totally understand the support for revitalizing the downtown area, ...BUT...at what point does it become a burden on the police department and other public service agencies to provide the manpower for this? Someone educate me please...

countyman
19542
Points
countyman 08/04/12 - 03:09 am
4
6
They're hiring several off

They're hiring several off duty police officers, and the amount of police had to do with the response...

If downtown can support the Westobou, ESI Ironman, Arts in the Heart, Border Bash, July 4th celebration, gay parade & festival, hispanic festival, Southern Nationals, Par 3 Party, greek festival, Mayors Masters Reception, etc.. Then have the weekly Saturday Market on the river and Sunday night Candlelight Jazz... Not to mention hosting the US Cycling Championships back in June of this year, and the only incident you've heard about was during one First Friday... Then you've pretty much answered the question...

Riverman1
81419
Points
Riverman1 08/04/12 - 05:36 am
9
4
"You will look happy."

It’s a surrealistic setting with police cars, fire trucks and cops everywhere watching the people. It’s like the rock performance George Clinton gave in Pyongyang with the North Koreans all sitting in perfect rows, tapping their feet in unison as the North Korean Army monitored the audience. “You will have fun, you will look happy.”

blues550
368
Points
blues550 08/04/12 - 05:37 am
0
0
Downtown
Unpublished

Downtown continues to be our #1 destination spot for great times throughout the year.

Riverman1
81419
Points
Riverman1 08/04/12 - 06:35 am
5
4
Actually, There Was a Murder

There was a murder associated with a carjacking on Crawford Ave, that runs into Broad St at 11:30 last night.

seenitB4
84230
Points
seenitB4 08/04/12 - 07:03 am
6
2
Election coming up

This will go on til election time folks....so get used to it....then we will see if they really mean business....

I have said B4....let the business on Broad pay for added police protection....we do in our neighborhood & it works well....the taxpayer can't be expected to foot the bill for EVERY activity downtown.....some don't even go downtown..

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 08/04/12 - 07:21 am
5
2
I was there. It was fun and

I was there. It was fun and alot of other people looked like they were enjoying themselves. I stayed to the bitter end at the levee with rains coming in and talk of Bloodkin show moving to Sky City. It was awesome. Spin it any which way you can River but it was a success and why that chaps peoples' keister, I'll never know. Here's more, there's another one in 30 days! HAH

Riverman1
81419
Points
Riverman1 08/04/12 - 07:40 am
5
3
David, ha..good post

Well, there was a murder at 11:30 with a carjacking not too far away. But here is the thing. Some of us have been using Milton Friedman examples this week because he would have turned 100 July 31st if he were alive.

So much of what he taught about the free market is relevant in every level of government. His teachings about government interference with private enterprise are particularly apt in Augusta. The market tells us the growth and money is being spent out around I-20 going out to Evans. Yet, government tries to create one project, facility, tax or committee after another to get people to go downtown.

People individually support with their money doing what’s best for their own self-interest. Anything that interferes with that is going to cause trouble eventually.

To look at this problem closer and understand it’s time to give up on the faulty logic of trying to support cities where people don’t want to spend money, read a new book out called Spreading the Wealth: How Obama is Robbing the Suburbs to Pay for the Cities by Stanley Kurtz.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 08/04/12 - 08:39 am
4
5
I read too many River threads

I read too many River threads to get a book worked in. But I get it. It doesn't concern me that the city is involved in the event. Coco organized with some folks for the Commons events and some good people put their own money on the line for the music at the Jesse Norman. When the headliner was set to go about 10:30, it was steady raining. The coordinator wanted to bring them on rather than take the insurance clause for "rain out". It came to the point where he was pleading with deputies to let them amp it back up cause it seemed like the rain was subsiding. Now why would you think he'd opt to lose money?

So yeah, the city provides the cops, who by the way were awesome hosts. And first aid was available. What that translates to in dollars after you factor in ALL the variables, is some number. Yes there was a murder about an hour after I left back near the old courthouse right? 19th this year in RC. None were attributed directly to a First Friday. THey happen on A Friday.

SOunds like the coordination and investment in dollars fell to private sector as you say it should. I'm sure we can implement an Obama factor, it's what some do best. But First Friday is our thing. It isn't his or yours or Romney's (snicker). Hey almost forgot "HAppPY BIRTHDAY MISTER PRESIDENT!!!"

on a side note, You been fishing and catching lately?

Shellman
623
Points
Shellman 08/04/12 - 09:00 am
6
2
Confused
Unpublished

I am confused by this headline: "First Friday is back". Where did it go? I don't believe there was any interruption of holding First Friday. The shooting was a month ago and I know there was initially some discussion of ending the event but that did not happen and it was agreed to continue it. I'm glad folks had a good time downtown, ok that's all well and good, but I have never really understood this concept of First Friday and this need for a gimmick to get people to go downtown. It's as though getting people to go downtown has become some sort of charity drive.

I have family in Greenville, SC and spend a good deal of time there. Pretty much every Friday and Saturday night it is a festive atmosphere..actually most days and nights you will find a lot of foot traffic downtown... but it's not forced or contrived.. people just enjoy coming to downtown Greenville every night. They don't need to be convinced with a gimmick that it is cool to come downtown once a month. people go for the restaurants, pubs, boutiques, shops and galleries all of the time.. it's just a normal thing.

Why is it in Augusta to get people downtown one day a month they have to go through this whole big ordeal with throngs of police and emergency vehicles stationed on every corner? What is this? The green zone in baghdad? And all of this just so people can walk down the sidewalks.. something that people do in other cities every day with little trouble or fanfare.

I sort of agree with Riverman.. . it should not have to be such a chore just to get people to go downtown regularly. You can't manufacture "cool". If people want to go downtown they will. I know for me, I go because there are some pretty decent non-chain restaurants.. but beyond that, there's just not much else to do down there.

But look at what is going on in Evans.. they have stuff going on in the town center park EVERY weekend. There's always something going on there and they dont have to have a para military unit stationed there to make sure chaos doesn't erupt. Just curious, what is going on downtown the other 29 days out of the month and what incentive is there for people to go downtown those other days? Or perhaps the better question is.. why aren't people going downtown the other 29 days out of the month?

justthefacts
21089
Points
justthefacts 08/04/12 - 08:48 am
5
3
boredinaug @ 1:16

He gets it. Who would want to attend something that is so dangerous you have to create a demilitarized zone to make it workable? Next they will buying used Xray machines from the airports to screen people at either end of Broad.

Shellman
623
Points
Shellman 08/04/12 - 08:56 am
4
1
Endangered Species
Unpublished

These First Friday events reminds me of those charity events that were staged to "Save the whales".. "save the brown spotted owl".. "Save the rainforests".. "save the loggerhead turtles"..etc. Except in this case it's saving another endangered species.. a dying downtown in a metro area where most people prefer to go to chain restaurants out on the westside and do their shopping in a warehouse mega mart or in an enclosed shopping mall.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 08/04/12 - 10:02 am
5
3
I drove in and illegally

I drove in and illegally parked behind Soul Bar without going through any check points or barricades.

That is weird about Col Co spending all their money in Walmart, Fatz, and Chick Fila. I don't, but I am with the tiny minority that thinks about where his meager dollar goes. I think it has the same value as those from the affluent. But then again, it doesn't take as much money to run a place that I would patronize as say Costco. It just comes down to taste.

Shellman
623
Points
Shellman 08/04/12 - 10:18 am
5
1
David I agree to a point
Unpublished

I go downtown somewhat frequently. There are several restaurants I enjoy. In fact the best restaurant in the metro area is downtown on Broad Street: Frog Hollow Tavern. When there is a good show at the imperial or the arena, I will be downtown. I don't need a gimmick like First Friday to go downtown. I mean who is this event aimed at anyway? Do most of these people come downtown any other day of the month? Give people quality attractions and businesses to patronize in a safe atmosphere and they will come .. you don't need a monthly gimmick.

JRC2024
8283
Points
JRC2024 08/04/12 - 11:07 am
3
0
As far as Columbia County

As far as Columbia County having entertainment every weekend. It is too hot to sit outside. I purchased four tickets to see groups comming to the Imperial but none at the new Columbia County center. I road thru downtown last night on the way to Luigi's (love their Greek chicken) and all was calm. Keep the police there and arrest anyone who causes trouble immediately and the trouble makers will get the message. Looked to me like people were having fun and the resturants were filled. Luigi's was. As far as the murder on Crawford Ave.-just look at the type of people (rough, disheveled and nasty) that have moved into the area over the last few years as the projects were torn down and you will see why there is always trouble in Harrisburg.

corgimom
30081
Points
corgimom 08/04/12 - 11:55 am
7
1
If I have to go somewhere

If I have to go somewhere that the police need to be on every corner to control things, then I don't need to be there.

To do what- eat at a restaurant? Listen to some music?

No thanks.

CobaltGeorge
153292
Points
CobaltGeorge 08/04/12 - 12:44 pm
3
2
Shellman

It's a pleasure reading your common sense post. Keep them coming.

ridesbrd
112
Points
ridesbrd 08/04/12 - 01:16 pm
3
3
Lots of law abiding citizens pulled over by police last night

Granted they were let go, but why just randomly pull vehicles over? Why would i want to purposefully go right into a police state/Downtown. No thanks i'll visit on the other 30 days of the month.

I'm happy people want to support downtown and create big events, but first friday is not worth saving. The ones fighting for it seem to be the ones that have money to lose. IE. bar and restaurant owners, first friday probably pays the bills for the month.

I'm sorry the BIG events last night were a flop and organizers lost money but you should have seen that coming.

lolaugusta

countyman
19542
Points
countyman 08/04/12 - 03:08 pm
2
3
Ridesbird.... The Augusta

Ridesbird.... The Augusta Common, etc were packed before it started raining and lightning...

Augusta can't win in the eyes of some people on here... They love to tell us downtown Augusta is sketchy/dangerous and needed to have the extra police... Now there's too many cops downtown, and we really don't need that much... The spin for today is downtown must have this amount of police force to hold events, and Harrisburg is located near the CBD... The US Cycling Championships, July 4th celebration, & Southern Nationals all happened during June/July(over 30k people)... None of the events had same the amount of police similar to First Friday, and didn't have any crime problems..

Crawford Avenue runs into Walton Way too so whats the point.... Is the shooting in Harrisburg related with Summerville too?? Crawford Avenue sharing the intersection with Broad street means absolutely nothing... The Broad street in Harrisburg, CBD, and Olde Town aren't the same whether you want to admit it or not.... Old Evans rd in Columbia County were numerous shootings have taken place runs into Washington rd, but I guess we can't mention anything outside of Richmond County.

Is somebody really trying to compare the events in Evans vs the CBD?? People act like the weekly Saturday Market and Candlelight Jazz Series don't exist... Or the Westobou, Border Bash, gay parade and festival, hispanic festival, greek festival, Arts in the Heart, ESI Ironman, etc.. Don't blame downtown for example if you don't know about the boat rides along the Augusta Canal which happen all the time...

What market?? If the market is telling you all of the growth and money is being spent around I-20 going to Evans... I wouldn't believe anything coming from that source again.... The JB white condo expansion/ Ellis street secure parking, 2 restaurants/7 apts at 1204 Broad, renovated Discovery Plaza(old Fort Discovery) Bath Fitters next to Marbury Center on Broad, Sprint Food & Metro Market at 851 Broad, renovated Miller theatre, Regency Inn becoming Holiday Inn Express, 9 apts/4,300 sq. ft. of retail at 901 Broad, etc all located in the CBD..

Then add the $172 million Starbucks/$115 million Rockwood plants in South Augusta, Walmart on Wrightsboro rd, Walmart neighborhood market/other amenities on 15th street, Home 2 Suites by Hilton/Residence Inn by Marriott in the Augusta Exchange, 25 acre shopping center/10k sq. ft. Shoppes at Dyess Park on Jimmie Dyess near Zaxbys, 13 acre shopping center on Gordon Hwy near Grovetown, etc...

countyman
19542
Points
countyman 08/04/12 - 03:16 pm
2
3
Some of the people who don't

Some of the people who are new to the area or don't visit certain parts of Augusta regularly might be fooled.. But you can't fool the people who visit downtown frequently & live in Columbia county at the moment(like David Parker), or residents who've moved from Columbia county to Richmond county(countyman)... We all the know the daily crime reports, drugs/gangs/weapons/fights at the local schools, etc in Columbia county get swept under the rug...

Anybody with common sense will tell you Crawford Avenue is apart of Harrisburg, and has nothing to do with the CBD... The Kroc Center was built in Harrisburg, and had to follow the rules... Diverse neighborhood, high visibility(Broad street), certain amount of poverty, close proximity to richer areas(CBD, Summerville, Waters Edge), and be able to improve the surrounding area in the future... If the CBD and Harrisburg formed one area together then the Kroc Center wouldn't be here in Augusta.

I'm positive the same people will never mention Cox Alley on Washington rd is located right next to Riverwood Plantation lol... But somehow the crime in Harrisburg is related to the CBD... When the Cookout(new restaurant) at 1801 Walton Way/Crawford Avenue intersection breaks ground shortly... Along with the 15th street neighborhood Walmart market & other things I bet nobody will mention the CBD...

HighSociety
1840
Points
HighSociety 08/04/12 - 03:46 pm
2
1
RM, associating the murder on

RM, associating the murder on Crawford Ave with FF? Really? You're brighter than that.

dstewartsr
20389
Points
dstewartsr 08/04/12 - 03:54 pm
2
0
Speaks volumes

"... ALMOST EVERY CORNER (emph. mine) had two or three police cars parked throughout the evening." Yeah, instead of ONE parked car every few blocks. Still afraid of getting out of their vehicles, though. They know better.

augusta citizen
8968
Points
augusta citizen 08/04/12 - 04:06 pm
4
0
clean up

countyman, sometimes you have thought I was anti-downtown when I've said downtown needs to be cleaned up. I am not anti-downtown at all. I don't go there often but do sometimes. I love lunch at Sunshine Bakery and the Rooster's Beak, and dinner at the Rooster's Beak and Blue Sky. I enjoy Arts in the Hearts as well. I think that you should get a group of other downtown residents and business owners together to improve curb appeal.
If you listed a house for sale, the realtor would tell you to clean up your yard if it looked bad. Since so many downtown resident's live in lofts and apartments, they really don't have yards they have to take care of. Remember when the group got together and would go to the abandoned Golf and Garden site one Sat. per month with weed-eaters, etc.? I have said many times if the sidewalks were pressure washed and the spaces around the sidewalk trees had mulch, the area would be so much more inviting. Sort of like in sub-divisions when the residents gather to plant flowers at the entrance, or decorate their signs at Christmas. It would improve both the curb appeal and the morale of the residents and let people come together for a common goal. I don't mean this as criticism, just a need that I think could be met by the folks that live there.

Riverman1
81419
Points
Riverman1 08/04/12 - 05:02 pm
3
0
No, I wouldn't say the murder

No, I wouldn't say the murder last night was associated with First Friday like it was another Great First Friday Shootout, but I wouldn't say it was nothing either. It was a carjacking a few blocks away on the 700 block of Crawford Ave at 11:00 PM to be exact. Apparently the two alleged shooters live in Harrisburg. It indicates a certain amount of danger, but from what the story says the FF activities ended last night at 8:30 PM..at dark. So FF was uneventful other than the huge police, fire department, EMS and officials present.

Riverman1
81419
Points
Riverman1 08/04/12 - 04:25 pm
3
0
We have the Appling officer

We have the Appling officer cover the county on nights when we have concerts and so on in Columbia County. It's usually so quiet most officers can have the night off to enjoy the events.

Jake
32156
Points
Jake 08/04/12 - 06:11 pm
3
1
Failing Augusta

I have read countyman's posts since he first came on years ago. I have also made posts that were contrary to his thinking. But the bottom line is does anyone in the CSRA want to see the city of Augusta fail in it's efforts to promote successful venues of entertainment and arts? If so, why? No one wins when the city fails. Some on here are in such glee when there are problems with the city and then do a lot of finger pointing.
Good for David Parker and others taking time to support First Friday. They are the ones who are truly civic minded in my opinion. I plan to go to First Friday on Oct 5th the day after I go to a Westobou music show to show my support for the arts in Augusta. If you see my obituary on the AC the following day then at least I went with a smile on my face.

Riverman1
81419
Points
Riverman1 08/04/12 - 06:43 pm
2
0
Jake, Augusta went to extreme

Jake, Augusta went to extreme measures with this First Friday. Still there was a carjacking murder a few blocks over at 11 PM. I'd write FF off and concentrate on other things. You can't seriously say we should continue with it requiring all the law enforcement we had. If photos of the police presence got out, it would make Augusta look pretty bad.

On the other hand, I seriously hope Augusta does well. I feel for merchants like my friends with businesses down there. I've often said Augusta, the true city, is the hub of the CSRA with the hospitals, government offices and ASU. Encourage expansion of ASU over the city and away from the Wrightsboro Rd complex as was previously suggested by some of the fervent supporters of the central business district. Sure, you could move the entire college to Wrightsboro Rd, but that would be the stupidest move ever. Just give away that land on Wrightsboro Rd and let's get everything hopscotching from the ASU campus on Walton Way.

I previously brought up encouraging the art community to move into vacant buildings and that's been implemented in a fantastic way. Businesses will follow.

However, let's not throw money into things like the white elephant TEE, 50 million rehab of Laney Walker and events like this. The free market has to be the impetus for the revival of downtown Augusta. It can't be artificial.

Riverman1
81419
Points
Riverman1 08/04/12 - 06:42 pm
1
0
Since it appears people have

Since it appears people have actually listened to some of my ideas, let me bring up the artificial rapids in the river and canal again. This could be the ULTIMATE, bringing upscale visitors and businesses like nothing we've seen. We could actually do this like no other city around here.

Trust me on this, research it and do a cost benefit analysis. Think outside the box, change the type people downtown. This could change Augusta like nothing since the canal opening in 1847. Heck, the way Deke gets into Ironman things, I'd think artificial rapids would get his attention.

Jake
32156
Points
Jake 08/04/12 - 06:59 pm
0
1
River front development

Riverman, I have always thought that Augusta has not reached it's full potential on what they could with the river. Water always is an attraction for people and yet that aspect of Augusta has not been realized.

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