KYLE WIND, STAFF WRITER / PUBLISHED: JANUARY 4, 2017
First Friday is poised to get bigger this year.
Based on the growth of the cultural event over the last several years and growing optimism about downtown Scranton’s revitalization, there is a widespread desire among participating businesses and board members to expand it this year, Executive Director Thom Welby said.
Organizers plan to meet soon to discuss the best way to grow First Friday during the warm-weather months, whether that means adding a Third Thursday celebration, or scheduling festivities every Friday night from May through October.
“Either way, everyone loves the idea and thinks it’s time we grow First Friday,” Mr. Welby said.
Judy Youshock, former president of the AFA Gallery, recalled hearing about First Friday events in other cities and suggesting it come to Scranton nearly two decades ago. She hasn’t been involved for several years but continues to enjoy seeing it come together.
The arts community coalesced around the event, and it took off by the mid 2000s. Now it includes art walks, exhibits at venues throughout the downtown, performances and live music at city restaurants. This Friday features activities at a dozen venues.
“First Friday is a wonderful event for the downtown with a positive community and economic impact,” Julie Schumacher Cohen, director of community and government relations at the University of Scranton and member of the First Friday advisory board. “It’s a free, community-oriented event that highlights our many downtown businesses and promotes arts and culture.”
The college’s latest downtown engagement surveys found 39 percent of students participated in First Friday in 2014, a 17 percentage point increase from 2011.
Public relations students also surveyed First Friday attendees and in a one-night snapshot found people ranging from young children to adults age 60 and older among 135 attendees. The heaviest representation came from people in their 50s and 30s, followed by attendees in their 20s and 40s.
Andrew Planey, co-owner of On&On History Recycled, envisioned an expansion of First Friday being good news for downtown businesses and said it has been important to the growth of the Lackawanna Avenue business that opened in August 2015.
“It’s always the biggest day of our month,” he said of the marketplace filled with repurposed, vintage and handmade items. “Not only does the art community come out, but anybody who’s looking to do something comes out.”
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