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
  • Follow Latest News

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.

Back | Next
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.

Comments (29) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
Jake
32844
Points
Jake 08/04/12 - 07:00 pm
0
1
PS Riverman

Meet me at First Friday in October and I will buy you the beverage of your choice and a helmet.

Riverman1
86788
Points
Riverman1 08/04/12 - 07:16 pm
1
0
Jake, yeah, alas...if we

Jake, yeah, alas...if we could just get the right combination of forces to make it all work instead of the usual BS. We have to create the natural demand instead of throwing money at superficial projects that will supposedly bring people downtown.

We have this idea that the entire county should build things such as arenas and so on even if they lose money. I doubt that, but I'd certainly consider rapids at a cost of a few million million that could change the face of downtown Augusta while providing something the entire CSRA would enjoy.

Shellman
623
Points
Shellman 08/04/12 - 08:41 pm
1
0
I support Downtown
Unpublished

... but not First Friday. Like I said.. I don't need a monthly gimmick to go downtown. I go somewhat regularly because some of my favorite restaurants are there. I have never understood the point of First Friday. Who is it aimed at? Why condition people to only come downtown one night out of the entire month? That's what this seems to be. Ican understand the idea behind it when it started in the mid 90s. At that time Downtown was pretty bleak.. it was almost dead.. and this was an effort to get people to rediscover downtown. Ok I get that. But that was nearly 18 years ago! You mean to tell me that people can't up with any new ideas in 18 years? I'm sorry but I don't consider it really supporting downtown to come ONCE A MONTH.. maybe buy a burrito and a cheap trinket at a street vendor .. then go home and post on Facebook how much you support downtown and pat yourself on the back and then say things like "see ya'll next month".. Having a vibrant downtown cannot be treated like a charity event so you can feel good about yourself. If you really support downtown.. then you support the businesses down there on a regular basis.. you don't need a monthly gimmick to get you down there. That's the problem I have with this event.

Shellman
623
Points
Shellman 08/04/12 - 08:50 pm
0
1
Riverfront
Unpublished

Jake.. until the levee is removed in portions downtown.. it will never make full use of its riverfront.. that's because now Augusta has a leveefront instead of a Riverfront. If the city leaders really wanted to jumpstart PRIVATE development on the river then they would push hard to have portions of the levee taken down. It is completedly unncessary with the series of dams upstream. The levee was built back before the dams were there. At that time it was needed.. not anymore.

Little Lamb
46857
Points
Little Lamb 08/04/12 - 10:50 pm
0
0
Red Herring

This "tear down the levee" rhetoric is a red herring that tries to deflect from actual issues downtown. In actuality, there are plenty of things one can do on the river side of the levee and on the dry side of the levee. The levee is not a hindrance to development. In fact, all the land on the river side of the levee belongs to the city government. No private developer can touch it.

Shellman
623
Points
Shellman 08/05/12 - 01:02 am
0
0
they could if there was no
Unpublished

they could if there was no levee.

Shellman
623
Points
Shellman 08/05/12 - 01:04 am
0
0
guess what.. the city then
Unpublished

guess what.. the city then could sell that land at a profit... instead of subsidizing all of these white elephants.. exactly how many completely privately funded developments along the river can you name downtown between 13th st and US 1?

Shellman
623
Points
Shellman 08/05/12 - 01:06 am
0
0
Prime realestate
Unpublished

We are always told how the riverfront is prime realestate.. ok.. then where is all of the private development? Augusta does not have a riverfront.. it has a leveefront.. and private investors are not interested building along a dirt wall.

Shellman
623
Points
Shellman 08/05/12 - 01:07 am
0
0
Do Like Billy
Unpublished

Of course they could do like Billy.. buy the land cheap and have Augusta taxpayers build it for you and pay you to run it....

Shellman
623
Points
Shellman 08/05/12 - 01:09 am
1
0
Out of its misery
Unpublished

The time for First Friday has come and gone.. put it out of its misery and come up with some fresh ideas.. Parachute pants went out of style for a reason too

Back to Top

Search Augusta jobs