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Reflecting on First Friday, the July shootings and all of the continuing meetings and discussions on whether to stop it, move it or replace it: One group just needs to be congratulated.

The Greater Augusta Arts Council has done an admirable job taking over the street festival and keeping it alive and active. Originally a festival developed to promote downtown retail merchants, especially artists, the festival has grown to encompass music, street vendors and food and beverage. There is no doubt that the growth of a very vibrant food and beverage industry is a direct outgrowth of First Friday.

Through all of this, the Greater Augusta Arts Council has kept everything moving along while working with a wide spread of stakeholders.

The bottom line of this whole debate is that the shootings did not happen during First Friday but after, and it is very doubtful any of the participants were even participating in First Friday.

What now needs to happen is for government and the seemingly endless downtown support groups to get in line behind and support the Greater Augusta Arts Council. Whether the event stays on Friday nights or changes to Saturday afternoons, these folks have a demonstrated history of conducting excellent events.

Let them do their work, and fully support their efforts.

Bill Lesshafft

Martinez

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shrimp for breakfast
5422
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shrimp for breakfast 07/26/12 - 01:25 am
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I agree

Very good letter Mr. Lesshafft. You hit the nail sqarely on the head.
Bravo!!!

dichotomy
30442
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dichotomy 07/26/12 - 10:49 am
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People should not focus on

People should not focus on the First Friday thing. The fact that this happened downtown, after First Friday was officially over with, is just an indicator. The real significance of this incident is that you are not safe at any public venue where members of our wayward youth present. This kind of stupid thug related, or possibly gang related, violence can break out at any event, any public venue, at any time and the demographics of this area signal that it will be happening more often. It just happened to be at First Friday this time. There is always Augusta Mall, the movie theaters, the fair, any evening event on the Commons or Riverwalk, or simply in a parking lot somwhere. This had little or nothing to do with First Friday........it was simply the "first".

Shellman
623
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Shellman 07/26/12 - 05:44 pm
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Disagree
Unpublished

I disagree with this letter entirely. Brenda Durant said in the days following the First Friday violence that the Arts council no longer sponsored First Friday... she even said that they no longer even promoted it. Now we should give them accolades for the fine job they have been doing managing the event? Are you serious? I know the Arts Council agreed to temporarily manage First Friday in 2007, but after a couple of years they limited their role significantly.. to the point where no one is really in charge of First Friday.

I find all of these brainstorming sessions to find solutions for fixing First Friday laughable. All they have to do is look back to when Main Street Augusta managed the event prior to 2006 to see what works.

I'm Sure Brenda Durant knows this, since she was involved with Main Street when they managed the event. Back then there were clear guidelines for vendors..where they could set up and when they had to close down. And Main Street ENFORCED these rules. They also collected fees from vendors to offset security costs. In fact, Main Street HIRED off duty deputies to work specials during the festival and afterward.. all the way to 2am. After the event was taken over by the DDA and then punted over to the Arts Council all of that fell apart and the event became disorganized.

I don't totally blame the arts council.. it was kind of dropped in their laps. The DDA is the main culprit for why FF became disorganized. When they punted FF over to the arts council they did not pass along the funding that Main Street was getting to host the event. The DDA kept that money for themselves.. so they could spend it on things like Trolley studies and parking meter studies.

But still if the Arts Council did not want to continue managing the event.. why didnt they say something? It seems to me they wanted to have it both ways.. to get all the praise for keeping First Friday alive.. but when there was trouble.. they want to distance themselves from having any repsonsibility for hosting the event. Decide which one it is.

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