The simple solution to solve the First Friday issue would be to change it from Friday to Saturday.
“First Saturday” could start about 10 a.m. and run until 3 p.m. or so. You could include the many galleries, shops, restaurants and even the Saturday Farmers Market at Augusta Common. Perhaps some performing arts groups would participate and help grow their audiences with free performances. It could become the once-awesome event it was.
This small change in itself would make this a family-friendly event and attract a clientele that would actually spend money with the downtown merchants.
The people who cause the trouble would be at home in bed at 10 a.m. and not even think of being out before dark because that’s not cool. The need for security would be minimal, and a side benefit would be the thugs who act up may quit going to Broad Street and downtown at night because there would be less reason to.
Yes, it would be hot during the summer but that doesn’t stop events in Charleston, S.C., and Savannah. It would put the focus back on the arts community and the downtown merchants where it needs to be. Who knows? Somewhere in the mix maybe Riverwalk could be reborn.
The sheriff’s office is tasked with public safety. However, it’s difficult to form a plan for security when there is no one to work with. It’s not the sheriff’s responsibility to organize the parties who benefit from this event. I feel certain the sheriff will do more than his part to ensure the success of any event in Richmond County.
The downtown area has prospered despite the efforts of local government. In the 1980s, Broad Street was a ghost town. Look at it now. Because of the efforts of some downtown merchants, it prospers. It’s always busy during the day and is crowded at night. Some of the area’s finest restaurants are downtown. The only time safety is a concern is the first Friday of each month. And despite recent events, it is safe to be downtown.
These merchants and the Downtown Development Authority need to step up to the plate and organize First Saturday, and watch this event return to its glory days.