Originally created 08/20/05

New rules will allow more vendors, music

First Friday is going to get a little more freedom.

Guidelines recently approved by the Augusta Commission are expected to relax regulations and allow more types of music and a greater variety of vendors when the monthly festival makes its next appearance Sept. 2.

"A great event is organization, not just overregulation," said Lara Plocha, committee chairwoman for Main Street Augusta's Street Team, which oversees the festival.

Ms. Plocha, who is also the executive director of the Imperial Theatre, said changes in the guidelines, part of a city ordinance, were written this summer by Main Street Augusta and the Downtown Advisory Panel to increase attendance at the downtown event.

"First Friday is probably the biggest promotional tool we have for downtown right now," she said.

Attendance, which peaked at about 10,000 in 2002, is now down to 5,000.

"It's come back to life after a couple years of lackluster attendance, and it's starting to grow again," which makes guideline improvements especially timely, Ms. Plocha said.

Vendors often congregate between Eighth and 10th streets, but one of Main Street's goals will be to spread the booths along the length of Broad Street between Monument and 13th streets.

To help bring in new vendors, registration fees for September will be waived. The new rules also will broaden the types of vendors allowed at the event. In the past, only those selling handmade crafts were allowed.

"A lot of vendors were turned away if what they were selling wasn't handmade," said Mike Guthrie, who is on the Main Street Committee and the Downtown Advisory Panel.

A greater variety of vendors will make for a more exciting First Friday, said Mr. Guthrie, who owns 1102 Bar and Grill.

The old guidelines also allowed only acoustic music, but that rarely adhered-to restriction was removed, Ms. Plocha said.

Reach Adrian Burns at (706) 823-3352 or adrian.burns@augustachronicle.com.

Get involved

Potential vendors and those who want to volunteer to be a part of the First Friday Street Team can call the Main Street Augusta office at (706) 722-8000. Street Team leader Lara Plocha will hold a First Friday question-and-answer session at 10 a.m. Monday at Augusta Common.


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