Archived Story

Bring First Friday to Alex City

Published 7:19pm Monday, June 30, 2014

By Alethia Russell

Outlook Staff Writer
I was first introduced to First Friday a few years after I moved to Gadsden. At first, it was just a road inconvenience that made me late for work, but now it’s literally one of my favorite things about Gadsden.

If you don’t know what First Friday is, I’ll tell you. On the first Friday of every month, the city closes off downtown to traffic so vendors and patrons can fill the streets.

There is live music, games for the kids, cotton candy stands, food trucks and more importantly – people. The restaurants stay open later so people will have a place to eat.

You throw in some specials or raffles, and you have a whole block party-type feel that attracts people downtown.

Now fast forward. I moved to Auburn in 2011 and still reside there. Auburn’s downtown area has means of its own to support nightlife and things like that, and there’s literally almost always something to see downtown.

The curiosity alone will draw me downtown on any given weekend, but when nearby Opelika announced they would start holding First Friday, I couldn’t contain myself.

You have all sorts of eateries and things downtown to shuffle through. Even if all you do is grab something to go, sit outside and people watch or listen to the band it’s still amazing, simple and fun.

Think about it. When you close your business at 5 p.m. everyday and you’re not open on the weekends, you can miss an entire crowd that works, say a second shift job, where they can’t come out to your business.

Trust me, I have that problem in Sylacauga all the time, and there are places I’m genuinely interested in browsing most days.

But with First Friday, there’s at least one day guaranteed where you know you can get in, shop late and get to know the people who own or manage the businesses that thrive in your downtown. In my first experience with First Friday, I saw at least 10 businesses I would’ve never known existed passing by in my car.

Gadsden and now Opelika are the only two cities I can personally say I know that First Friday does well in. I’m not sure how many cities actually do it.

But, I think Alex City would really benefit from having a First Friday, even if it’s just a few trial months to see how people respond.

You know why? Because I’m 21 years old, and I rarely guarantee much but I can guarantee this. If it came down to picking a place to live out of the places I just mentioned (Alex City, Auburn, Opelika or Gadsden) Alex City would lose every time.

My 20’s mindset would want to be in a place where I don’t have to travel 30-45 minutes away for entertainment, clothes or have to settle for Taco Bell because it’s the only thing open when I get off.

Because even though my parents are from here (and for that I’ll always have something here) I would still rather go back to Auburn or Gadsden to feel the sense of community I’ve been shown throughout my life.

I didn’t feel that until I started frequenting First Fridays.

So what do you say Alex City? Let’s have a First Friday.

Russell is a staff writer for The Outlook.

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