First Fridays photos courtesy of the First Fridays Facebook page.
This month marks a decade of bringing residents, businesses, artists and musicians together in Bixby Knolls for First Fridays—and it’s going to be celebrated, with an extravagant set of events, people, art, music and more aimed at memorializing the anniversary.
From 6:30 to 9:30PM, the band MOVE will perform their First Fridays greatest hits at Ground Control, 4313 Atlantic Avenue; the Expo Arts Center will host over 30 artists as well as a children’s theater event; free leis will be on hand for all, and face painting, night market sales and more will snag the attention of passersby, celebrating the significant impact of the tradition on the neighborhood.
“[Bixby Knolls] is back on the map, and 10 years ago this was a very sleepy area that ‘once had a heyday’ but slipped into obscurity,” said Blair Cohn, executive director of the Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association (BKBIA). “The media has recognized the renaissance going on here with all the façade improvements, new businesses opening up, and monthly programs we host. There has been a ton of city support for the event which has also helped it grow.”
But most importantly, Cohn said the financial impact of the event has been a huge boon to clients and customers, especially significant given its incremental growth.
It all began back in 2006, with one Bixby Knolls business owner deciding to keep her doors open a little longer than usual on the first Friday of the month, thinking maybe more people might just stumble across her business during the extended hours.
Other businesses followed suit, and pretty soon, musicians joined the fray, followed by artists looking to showcase their wares during the monthly community occasion. Now, over 50 stores participate, along with 15 live musical acts and over 30 artists each month. It became, officially, Bixby Knolls’ First Fridays.
“In the beginning, if we had 25 people come through our office to check out the artist, listen to some music, have a treat and move on to the next location we thought that was a good night,” Cohn. “Now we just love seeing the full spectrum of a few thousand people walking around and enjoying themselves.”
The BKBIA teamed up to host and coordinate First Fridays a year after it started. Cohn said the positive feedback from the community, including from councilmembers like Al Austin, has been one of the main joys of the work.
“Councilman Austin said something to me recently, ‘Blair, the kids that go to First Fridays now will be talking about it years later just like those folks that reminisce about the Pike back in the day,’” said Cohn. “I hope he’s right. I had never thought of it that way but I do hope people enjoy the whole experience of it and understand why we do it…AND why it’s so important to our business district.”
First Friday coordinator Tokotah Ashcraft said the place was especially valuable because it’s strengthened the sense of community in Bixby Knolls.
“First Fridays has created this safe place for artists, business owners, and the community to all interact with one another seamlessly in Bixby Knolls,” said Ashcraft. “I have watched many families and businesses move into the area because they know this is not only a safe place to be but a welcoming creative community and I think First Fridays has something to do with that.”
The long list of celebratory events taking place at tonight’s First Fridays aims to commemorate that sense of community. For the full list of features, go to the First Fridays Facebook page.
We know you're looking forward to celebrating. So are the organizers.
“I want to hear MOVE play me my favorite songs from their sets over the years and we’ll all eat some pizza and have some cake at the end of the night,” said Cohn. “Plus, if you find me walking around I may just have a special flask on me to share and say cheers to the event!”
Bixby Knolls' First Friday event occurs in the area of 4321 Atlantic Avenue.