Fifteen Years of First Friday

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Bring out the confetti, because First Friday is celebrating 15 years!

For the past decade and a half, First Friday has been the cornerstone monthly event of BCS, gathering the community together for one big, classic block party. Every First Friday, locals, visitors and students alike get to explore this vibrant community while also supporting local businesses, who stay open late and offer special promotions to First Friday guests.

Though it now spans a large swath of Downtown Bryan and has become the community’s signature event, First Friday began back in 2005 with one woman and a frame shop.

“Initially, it was just me, it was First Friday at the Gallery,” says Greta Watkins, owner of local business The Frame Gallery. “I think I had 50 people the first time, and I was thrilled.”

Watkins had seen similar First Friday events around the country, and decided to implement it here in order to draw customers.

“I had just moved my business downtown from another location downtown, and at that time the city was in the middle of… they were going through the phases of this master plan they’d come up with a few years before, and I knew my street was going to be closed a few months while they did some infrastructure things,” she says. “So I decided to just try this idea, this First Friday idea.”

After several years of handling the event and watching it slowly incorporate more businesses, Watkins passed the torch to the Downtown Association.

“All of our businesses down here are special,” says Downtown Association Marketing Coordinator Abigail Noel. “It really grew organically.”

Noel highlights Downtown Bryan’s 2014 designation as a cultural district and the impact this event has on its community, saying, “First Friday really encompasses everything that our cultural district is all about, and so First Friday is a great way to experience all those things and showcase all that Downtown Bryan has to offer.”

Watkins echoes a similar sentiment. “One thing that really makes me happy about downtown, and it comes out a lot during First Friday, is that downtown is a little community, and it’s very welcoming,” she says. “First Friday, you’ll be walking down the street and you’ll see your friends, and you’ll get to catch up with your friends. This was pre-COVID, but in a lot of ways, we can still be small town friendly, and know people, and I just love that part.”

This upcoming First Friday will be Friday, October 2nd, and the list of businesses participating has grown quite lengthy. Though this First Friday may look a little different with certain public health precautions in place, the heart of the event is the same: businesses will remain open and offer their usual fare, several live musicians will perform on the street, and food and other vendors will be in attendance. This month, Main Street will actually be closed off to allow the Brazos Valley Farmer’s Market enough space to set up, and it also allows attendees ample space to maintain distance from other groups.

In honor of the 15th anniversary of First Friday, the Downtown Association will be putting on an art project called the HeARTbeat of Bryan. Scattered around the event area will be 15 wooden hearts, each painted by a different local artist inspired by Bryan’s community and culture. For an event that started with an art gallery, it’s fitting First Friday should celebrate this milestone with this latest project — especially since Watkins herself was one of the fifteen chosen to paint a heart.

Downtown Bryan has a number of precautions in place to keep this event as safe as possible. Attendees are asked to self-screen for any possible COVID-19 symptoms prior to the event, and stay home if feeling ill. Guests age 10 and over must wear a face covering and are asked to maintain six feet of distance from other parties. Sanitization stations will be placed around the area, and guests are asked to respect all distance markers and protocols when dealing with individual businesses or booths.

So come on down to help Downtown Bryan celebrate their 15th year of First Friday!

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