Downtown First Friday idea plans to build on momentum

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The City of Greencastle is in the midst of a facelift, and it's time to celebrate the energy and momentum it has created for the downtown, organizers of a planned new event believe.

Consequently, an ambitious First Friday event -- focusing on live entertainment, the arts, local businesses and civic opportunities -- is set to begin May 2.

"The whole idea," organizer Gail Smith of Almost Home and The Swizzle Stick told the Banner Graphic, "is for people to come downtown and listen to music and then go around and shop and see what the businesses are doing and what they have to offer."

Smith pointed to the momentum not only of the Stellar Grant project but the reinvigorated efforts of the Arts Council and Main Street Greencastle groups and positive energy being generated at Apostrophe, the Amy and Tad Robinson-owned building at the corner of Franklin and Jackson streets.

On the first Friday of each month from May through October a special musical event will be planned on the north side of the square, Smith said.

Organizers want to continue that First Friday feel through winter months too, encouraging businesses to hold special events inside the stores downtown to keep the momentum going.

"Greencastle has got a new downtown, and I'm so proud of that," Smith said. "Being one of the benefactors of that, I love my building. Greencastle has had a facelift and we should celebrate that energy downtown.

"I feel that it's so important now that we have this wonderful curb appeal to do something and keep it going forever," she added. "And it's a great opportunity to do so right now."

Appearing before the City Council at its April meeting, Smith received permission to close Franklin Street between Jackson and Indiana (the north side of the square) from 4:30-10 p.m. The First Friday events are planned to run 6-9 p.m.

Fellow organizer Tami Van Rensselaer called the location on north side of the square and use of the stage on the courthouse plaza there "the perfect venue to try to get people downtown."

Van Rensselaer has been visiting businesses and talking with civic organizations, spreading the word about the First Friday venture. The response has been encouraging, she said as she attempts to "intermingle businesses with civic groups."

In addition to Starbucks and Shuee and Sons and Chief's and other businesses, she has been courting the Putnam County Museum, People Pathways, the Chamber of Commerce, the Greencastle Park Department and the City of Greencastle as groups or organizations that could advertise their specials or their own scheduled events with a pop-up booth (at a fee of $25 to help pay for expenses) during First Friday celebrations.

On May 2, the live entertainment will be the Lemon Brothers Band, a Wabash Valley group of 12-year-olds whose classic rock and country rock music "wows the crowd," entertainment organizer David Hunt said.

"Everyone, including me, walks away saying 'Are you kidding me?' when they hear them," Hunt added.

Overall, the First Friday focus will be on family-oriented entertainment. Then, after 9 p.m., The Swizzle Stick, for example, will have its customary gig by War Radio.

"The idea is to get things rolling," Smith said, "and develop a climate and figure out the best entertainment."

As it grows, the First Friday idea undoubtedly will be re-evaluated and tweaked as others get involved.

Smith envisions the pop-up booths either dispensing information or selling arts and crafts or handcrafted items.

"We're not opening this up for people to sell socks," Smith assured, stressing that it will not be a flea-market type of undertaking

There also will be no booths peddling food or drink vendors that might conflict with downtown businesses that do the same.

The First Friday effort, organizers noted, has the support of Main Street Greencastle, the Chamber of Commerce, the Arts Council and the Greencastle/Putnam County Development Center.

"Those groups are excited because they can't do this on their own," Mayor Sue Murray told the City Council, "and Gail has undertaken the initiative."

Council President Adam Cohen said he sees it as a positive way to building community spirit.

"I think it's great you're doing this," he praised before the Council gave Smith's request for the temporary street closing unanimous approval.

For more information about the First Friday venture, persons can visit

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