How to Host First Friday Events in Your Community

BY JENNY TOTTEN, COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR, THE HUB


Are you working to bring energy into your community? Do you want to see more people in your downtown spaces? Are there a number of local craftspeople, artists, farmers, and other entrepreneurs in your region that you’d like to bring together?  

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you may want to consider hosting a single-day monthly event to bring community members together for food and fun, and to support local businesses. These events are often less cumbersome to implement than a weekly farmers market or a multi-day festival, and bring in a wide audience of supporters from the community.  They are a low-risk way for new product-based businesses in your community to engage with and test a customer-base without having large inventories. These monthly events can grow into weekly market opportunities as more community members become engaged.  

As part of the Cultivate WV program, the Montgomery & Smithers team, working with local WVU Extension personnel, was awarded a mini-grant to create a First Friday event at the Smithers Gateway Center during the warmer months. Each month, residents and visitors alike can experience local farm-grown foods, artwork, youth activities, and food trucks. Communities throughout the state are holding similar monthly events in Buckhannon, Hinton, and Grafton, among others. 

Here are some tips for hosting monthly single-day events in your community: 

 

  • Build a team to hold the organization work.

    You may be a single person with an idea, but make sure you include others in the planning and implementation of your project. This way, the workload is shared and people can bring in more fun ideas!

     

  • Be consistent with time and location.

    Humans are creatures of habit. Make sure you pick days and times for your event that fit your community. While noon on Tuesdays may be good for communities with a significant retirement population, a Thursday evening may be a better fit for communities with lots of families. Having your event in the same place, on the same day of week, and at the same time each month will keep your event front of mind for residents and help draw a consistent monthly crowd.

     

  • Drum up interest on social media.

    Create a Facebook page or an Instagram account for your monthly event. Post lots of photos of people having fun and highlight vendors and entertainment. Make sure you update regularly and not just in the week leading up to the next event so community members can plan ahead to attend. We recommend beginning to promote an event starting four weeks in advance.

     

  • Integrate existing downtown businesses.

    If possible, work with your community’s local shops to offer extended hours or specials in order to draw in customers and provide even more activities for your event attendees.

     

  • Include activities and entertainment.

    By creating more than just a place to shop, you can extend the time that your community spends at events. Invite local musicians to play, have kids’ activities, hold artist demos, host a dog parade–anything that will bring people together to have some fun!

     

  • Be patient.

    Sometimes, these events will take a few months to really become popular, as it takes time for the news to trickle down through your community. The key is to stay consistent and continue to show up.

     

What are some creative ways your community comes together on a monthly basis? Let us know on Twitter @WVHub!

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