XENIA — As Xenia prepares for its final First Fridays in 2014, one thing is certain about the six-year-old event: It just keeps getting bigger and better.
“They’ve been well-attended this year,” said co-organizer Heidi Hilderbrandt. “The community support continues to grow. We grow month-by-month, season-by-season. We’ve been able to grow entertainment. We’ve been able to add street performers. We’ve been able to add petting zoos a few times, compared to last season where we were able to bring that once.”
It started as a way to get Downtown Xenia and its businesses some exposure. First Fridays has done its job as it’s helped revitalize the area.
“First Fridays, with all the other stuff we’ve done downtown, has probably been one of the most catalytic and pivotal for all the stuff that’s happening in a positive way for downtown,” said Mary Crockett, Xenia community development coordinator.
Business owners used to look for space outside of downtown. Now they are lining up to get in the center of town.
“We keep hearing from small businesses that are looking for space here,” Crockett said. “They say they have attended First Fridays, many, many of them. They have never seen the downtown before and they’re driving through and see the big crowds.”
Another big crowd is expected this weekend as the Montgomery Parking lot will turn into a petting zoo as Jungle Island returns. Matt Jergens will be riding around on his unicycle while he’s juggling.
Dave Davis, a highly talented and entertaining magician, will be on South Detroit Street performing, while Lucky the Clown will be making his balloon creations on the south side of West Main Street.
Miss Lissa and Co., will be delivering the sound of old-time blues.
The popular cruise-in will take place and a walking tour of the area will begin 6:30 at the courthouse.
This month Cork ‘n Bottle, Craig’s Pesto Dogs, Big E’s Southern Q and Sugar Shack will be featured at to the food court. Willie’s Bar and Grille will feature the band “One Hot Minute.”
While this season hasn’t officially ended, plans are already underway for a bigger 2015.
“We’d like to add more activities, a variety of street performers,” Hilderbrandt said. “We want to bring in new food vendors, new food trucks.”
Whether its with more food, entertainment or activities, Hilderbrandt, and fellow coordinators Blair Montgomery Davis and Joe Rolston are committed to growing First Fridays.
“It’s just a fun night to bring the family to town, stroll around and see what we have to offer,” Hilderbrandt said. “We know the importance of it. We all live in Xenia. Any development and any focus on downtown, I think it’s a positive thing. That’s what we’re all about.”
Scott Halasz covers Xenia and Greene County for the Xenia Daily Gazette. He can be reached at 937-502-4507.