For more than 10 years the city of Valdosta has held a celebration to commemorate downtown city life on the first Friday of every month.
On an average First Friday, all downtown restaurants stay open later, serve drink specials and have live music playing.
“It’s a celebration of the heart of the city,” Missy Smith, main street coordinator, said.
First Friday includes exceptions to the open container law, meaning citizens can peruse shops, drink in hand.
Smith said First Friday is an effort by the city to get people from all over the Valdosta community to experience downtown.
“We want them (citizens) to come downtown and enjoy it for what it is,” Smith said. “A lot of people don’t come downtown or don’t know what it is, especially VSU students.”
Smith said that since their target audience is locals, the city wants VSU students to come downtown instead of focusing on Remerton.
“It’s a good introduction to downtown,” Megan Loftis, general manager for the Bleu Café, said.
First Friday is also good for businesses since they receive a lot of foot traffic during the night. Red Door Records owner Jessica Ganas said her shop is usually packed on first Friday.
“We have a full house every First Friday,” Ganas said. “Standing room only.”
Some shops set up small art galleries from local artists on First Fridays
Ganas said Red Door Records usually gets a lot of business through their live jazz band and monthly art studio.
Loftis said the Bleu Café has to prepare for more than the usual amount of customers on First Friday.
“We do almost double business, but we have more people staffed so that it all goes smoothly,” Loftis said.
Another reason for the large influx of business is the exception to the open container law on First Friday.
“It’s the only night of the month that, legally, they (law enforcement) allow you to have an open container of alcohol outside,” Ganas said.
Smith said all participating restaurants carry commemorative First Friday cups that are put out for customers to buy. After filling their cup, customers are able to explore downtown without receiving an open container charge.
“The idea is to not go to one place and stay seated,” Ganas said. “You get your drink, and you can go into every place downtown.”
Smith said the city is currently working on plans to get a regional audience, but First Friday is still here for locals.
“It’s a really good night to have a lot of people come together, hang out and listen to music,” Ganas said.
Story and photos by Bryce Ethridge, News Editor.
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