It’s entirely possible that Thursday has supplanted Friday as Rochester’s favorite day of the week.
At least, that is, for the months of June, July and August, when Thursdays on First & Third takes over downtown, filling the streets with music, food, craft vendors and thousands upon thousands of people.
How much bigger can this thing get?
“I guess we’ll find out,” said Jenna Bowman, who is about to oversee her first year of Thursdays on First & Third as the new executive director of the Rochester Downtown Alliance. The street fair opened today and will be held every Thursday through Aug. 28.
Already there are times when it is nearly impossible to move through the crush of people gathered at the event, especially in the evening. Bowman said she hopes to even out the crowd by providing entertainment throughout the day.
“The thinking is to make sure there’s excitement all through the day, not just the spikes at lunch and in the evening,” she said. “How are we creating engagement all day long?”
One of the ways of doing that is with the arts and culture district on Historic Third Street, which will include interactive art opportunities and live performances.
Other than that, there are no major changes in the successful formula. There will be 80 additional chairs in the Peace Plaza, responding to a request for more places to sit while listening to music, and the music will now start at 5 p.m on both the Peace Plaza and First Avenue stages. And the festival keeps creeping outward with Victoria’s, located just north of the Peace Plaza, now hosting a patio party with a mobile bar for a new craft cocktail menu.
As in the past, there is live entertainment on both stages during the noon hour. Everything wraps up at 8:30 p.m.
Thursday is only one day of the week, but it can have a major impact on the other six.
“I think this is huge for downtown,” Bowman said. “What other areas of downtown do people discover while they’re at the event? It’s one of those opportunities to get people out on the streets. There’s a lot of discovery and exploring to do.”
For locals who don’t often venture downtown, or who don’t get out of the cubicle too often, Thursdays on First takes the fear out of unknown.
“It’s convenient and it’s enjoyable to come downtown,” is the message Bowman hopes to send.
Based on Thursday crowds in recent years, plenty of visitors and local residents alike have received that message. “I’ve heard 30,000,” Bowman said when asked for average weekly attendance at the event.
Bowman knows crowds, having previously worked with the Grand Avenue Business Association in St Paul, which puts on the hugely popular Grand Old Day. Since she’s new on the job in Rochester, this year will be one of observing and managing, before looking at any potential changes in the successful Thursdays on First formula
For example, Bowman said the issue of continuing to allow dogs and pets at the event will be studied. “That’s a sensitive issue, and something I’ll be looking at this year,” she said.
Meanwhile, there appears little incentive to extend Thursdays on First into the first relatively warm weeks of September. The weather might still be fine then, Bowman said, but the calendar becomes busy with school activities.
So for now, the Thursday parties will come to a halt at the end of August. That still leaves us three months of fun, food, music and great weather in downtown Rochester on our favorite day of the week.
If you go
What: Thursdays on First & Third
When: 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursdays through Aug. 28. Live music starts at 5 p.m. on Peace Plaza and First Avenue stages. Live entertainment on both stages from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Where: Peace Plaza, and along First Avenue Southwest to Historic Third Street Southwest
Today’s 7 p.m. headliners: The Pines on the Peace Plaza stage, The Soil & the Sun on the First Avenue Stage