The First Friday Block Party will take place on the 200 block of Broad Street from 6 to 11 p.m. this week.
Three bands will perform on a stage located at the Second Avenue-end of the block while a variety of children’s activities will be available at the Third Avenue-end of the street.
Both north and southbound lanes of Broad Street will be shut down at about 4 p.m. to get the stages and other activities set up.
“We’ve actually been talking about this in our promotions committee since last year,” said Downtown Development Director Ann Arnold. “It really came out of the idea of having a street festival on Broad Street and this was just an opportunity to try it and do something a little different.”
She said the DDA does want try something new every now and then to keep the event fresh.
Arnold calls this Friday night’s event a test run for something else that could grow out of the event.
“We could possibly in the future move First Friday to Broad Street and do it in different blocks every month,” Arnold said. “Or this could turn into brand new festivals. We just want to see how it goes.”
Robert Blumberg, owner of Johnny’s New York Style Pizza, said he’s excited about the event.
“We are pretty excited about the fact that Rome is getting to be more competitive with other cities like Alpharetta, Acworth, Roswell and so forth, having streets fairs and things to bring more people to downtown to experience the downtown lifestyle,” Blumberg said. “We’re only closing one block. I’d love to see two or three blocks closed because it give everyone an opportunity for more street traffic.”
The bands Friday night will include Jerry on the Moon, Curiosity Shoppe and Kneckdown. In between bands officials with the Rome International Film Festival will have a couple of acoustical acts. The stage will be located in the northbound lane of Broad Street at Second Avenue.
Marie Brinson, owner of LaMarie’s, has embraced the event to the point where she will be putting a dance floor area in the small parking lot besides her building. “I think it’s going to be amazing. People are going to be pleasantly surprised,” Brinson said.
She’ll also have grills set up to offer hot dogs and burgers.
Several of the non-restaurant merchants in the 200 block of Broad Street have indicated that they will be staying open a little later than normal to take advantage of the foot traffic Friday night.
The children’s activities will feature a variety of inflatables, a train, as well as Shriners and their shenanigans.
“We’ll have the junior tennis court that was at First Friday last year,” Arnold said. “It will definitely be a large children’s area.”
With the assistance of Eagle Rock Distributors, the DDA will be providing cups to five participating restaurants — LaMarie’s at Magretta Hall, Mellow Mushroom, Harvest Moon Café, Johnny’s New York Style Pizza and Curlee’s Fish House and Oyster Bar.
“In order to bring your adult beverage onto the street, it will have to be in one of those cups and will have to be purchased at one of those restaurants,” Arnold said.
First Friday fans can bring in soft drinks and water, however. The Shriners will also be selling water.
The Rome International Association is selling tables, chairs and a tent for concertgoers. Contact Georgia Pullen at 706-295-0010.
Arnold said the 200 block merchants are all excited about the event.
“We’ve gotten a little bit of push back from some of the regulars that come to First Friday because they can’t bring their adult beverages, but the way I look at it, these businesses are paying for this event and they have for 14 years to make it free to the public,” Arnold said. “Here’s an opportunity for them to have the customer right in their front door. We want them to have some direct benefit. They didn’t ask for it. It was just something the promotions committee came up with. Why not give them the opportunity?”
“We have something planned to give back — its called Pie it Forward,” said Brinson at LaMarie’s. “We’ve heard some negatives concerning having to buy from restaurants and this is our part we’d like to play. If nothing else, they’ll have pie.”