Some people call Jamie Heater a benevolent dictator.
It made her laugh. In a whirlwind of conversation, punctuated by quick wit and self-deprecation, she remembered the title in association with her position as 3rd Friday promoter.
“We work ourselves to the bone,” she said in a more serious tone, but still with that characteristic excitement. “But we see how much it means to people.
Every month, 3rd Friday presents a theme. On Sept. 19, it will be Space and Time, allowing artists to chime in on clocks, the Antares Rocket Program and time travel.
In October it will be Falltoberween, with pumpkin painting and a carving contest.
November’s theme is Light, brightening shorter days and earlier sunsets and in anticipation of upcoming tree lighting ceremonies and winter festivals.
“We just try to come up with big concepts a lot of people can tie into, real broad ideas. The theme Wheels turned out to be much better than expected, with everything from bikes to pottery wheels,” Heater said.
Salisbury’s 3rd Fridays, abbreviated 3F, started about five years ago, but it isn’t a new concept. Similar events attracted attention around the country. When Snow Hill planned a function, it appealed to Lee Whaley and Connie Strott, who wanted to bring a version to Salisbury.
Heater, who works as an account executive for WMDT-TV and is self-proclaimed “big fan of the arts,” embraced the idea.
A friend mentioned the first one to her, saying, “You need to check it out.”
“I was like, ‘Damned right I’m going to check it out.’ I was like, ‘They need me,’” Heater said.
She had applied to be a docent at the Salisbury Zoo, “but Connie ruined my life,” she joked. She has remained involved since.
About 20 people comprise the planning committee and work in a variety of fields, including graphic design, film production, retail, comic book publishing, real estate, photography and education. “They are all Salisbury regulars and they are artists, vendors, members of the community, who are creative and good at brain storming,” Heater said.
“Our meetings are crazy. Those meetings are nuts. We really don’t handle the logistical side of 3rd Friday. It’s all creative. We’re laughing. We’re trying to think of fun things,” she said.
“We view it as having three pieces – artists for non-profit vendors; communicating with artists, downtown and businesses; and otherness. We talk about what else we are going to do to make 3rd Friday new and interesting. We say, ‘What else can we do?’ Even if you’ve been coming here five years, you’ll still see something different,” she said.
Along with promoting downtown, there’s an economic impact. The event brought business back to downtown and is drawing thousands the third Friday of every month, giving them a reason to go downtown and make merry.
City officials noticed and, in April, presented her with its first Downtown Positive Impact Award.
“At our meetings, it’s a good mix of people representing different points of view. We troubleshoot. We talk about ideas, what happened last time that we liked, didn’t like, what’s a cool idea. Things like, let’s paint the plaza, let’s include food, let’s introduce this, let’s introduce that. It’s a lot of hard work,” she said.
“The people who help me plan are putting in time, putting in hours. It’s my job to tap into these people,” she said.
“We are here to be cool. To be cool, and creative and different.”
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