Hoping to follow on the success of its inaugural August event, Stroll the Streets for First Friday will be back for its latest rendition Friday, Sept. 6.
27 South owner Nick McCarter, the event organizer, said feedback from the Aug.2 event which, for the first time, closed the block of King Street between Market and Loudoun streets during Leesburg’s First Friday festivities, was overwhelmingly positive.
“Obviously this is something we don’t want to stop,” he said. “It was an overwhelming success.”
McCarter said downtown visitors to Stroll the Streets enjoyed the additional pedestrian space, especially for families with young children and strollers. And downtown businesses, even those who outside of the footprint of the event, reported some of their best sales during any First Friday. Some restaurants even had hours-long waits. The weather could not have been better either, McCarter acknowledged.
The Town Council recently gave its OK for continuing the Stroll the Street event during First Fridays; however, the town is not footing the bill for the street closure. McCarter said that, outside of the initial almost $1,000 application fee, last month’s event cost him into the thousands of dollars by the time the cost of insurance and other line items were added up. As he looks to expand the event in the coming months, the costs will only increase, he said.
McCarter is emphatic that he does not want Stroll the Streets to be a Nick McCarter production. To that end, he is trying to further involve the community and businesses. The first step towards that was creating a Facebook page, Leesburg Stroll the Streets, where he garnered much of the feedback that will shape this and future Stroll the Street events, he said. He is also looking to turn the reins of the event over to the Leesburg Downtown Business Association.
“I’ll be taking on a leadership role in that organization to reinvigorate it, get businesses involved, and that will be the host of Stroll the Streets for First Friday moving forward,” he said. “The community can donate money to the organization which will then fund things like this.Businesses can become members or donate money to the organization.”
McCarter said he had many people reach out to donate money to keep the event going, but there was nowhere to put the funds. Putting it under the auspices of the LDBA will solve that problem, he said.
September’s event will see the addition of many kid-friendly activities, with a face painter, balloon artist, and sidewalk chalk scheduled during the early hours of the 6:30-10 p.m. event.
Going forward, McCarter is looking to secure the ABC license to allow consumption of alcohol on the closed-off street, as well as expand the overall footprint of Stroll the Streets to other parts of the downtown. He emphasizes that Stroll the Streets is not intended to mirror a downtown festival with booths and vendors on the streets. Rather, it’s an event meant to showcase the downtown area and its shops and restaurants, and encourage visitors to patronize the brick and mortar shops.
Stroll the Streets is a work in progress, McCarter said, and the public should expect more each month. He hopes to have the ABC license in place soon, although it will not be ready for the September event, to add the outdoor alcohol consumption component to it, as well as adding more adult-friendly activities to supplement the offerings for children.Tables and chairs will also be rented in future months to allow for a seating option other than the sidewalk curb, he said.
“Every month I want this to get better,” McCarter said.
The Sept. 6 Stroll the Streets for First Friday event will run from 6:30-10 p.m. when the King Street block will be closed to traffic. More information on First Friday activities can be found atleesburgfirstfriday.com.