In its 10 years, 3rd Friday has changed Salisbury

In 2009, a small group of volunteers and city officials launched what they hoped would be an event to showcase Salisbury’s Downtown and help drive its rebirth as a place to shop, eat and have fun.

“It was literally just a labor of love,” said Jim Ireton who was elected mayor a few months before the launch of the first 3rd Friday.

This Friday will mark the 10th anniversary of the event that has boomed over the past decade. The first few 3rd Fridays drew 300 to 400 people, but that crowd size has now grown to an average of 2,500, and it has even peaked at 5,000 people.

The first 3rd Friday was started by Connie Strott and Lee Whaley as part of the former Urban Salisbury group. After that group dissolved, the Salisbury Arts & Entertainment District was formed and it now runs 3rd Friday, the Downtown Salisbury Festival, New Year’s Eve Ball Drop and the National Folk Festival.

Ireton, who is now a City Council member, along with former city employee Jessie Cocci, then-volunteer Jamie Heater and the late city Police Officer Aaron “Bull”Hudson, pitched in during the early days to barricade streets and help with other event details.

“It was an organic thing,” Ireton said of the early years of 3rd Friday. “It was planted in the ground by about seven people.”

The monthly event drew people to the Downtown area, including many who hadn’t been there in years. As a result, there were more customers in local businesses, the Downtown Plaza became a venue for weddings and people saw a low crime rate, he said.

By the second or third year, organizers knew they were onto something because similar events started popping up in other towns, Ireton said.

“It’s a quintessential Salisbury success because we did it on our own,” he said.

Heater, who is now the paid executive director of the Salisbury Arts & Entertainment District, said she went to the first 3rd Friday as a guest and immediately volunteered to help with each event after that.

“We just kept showing up, and now look at it,” she said.

The event has succeeded in its goal as an economic development driver for Salisbury’s Downtown, Heater said. Over the years, it has helped generate traffic to local businesses, particularly to Downtown restaurants and bars that are crowded during and after 3rd Friday.

“It’s a gift to Downtown,” she said. “It’s a marketing tool with such fantastic side effects.”

Small retail shops like the Barefoot Baby Boutique on the Downtown Plaza also benefit from the increased foot traffic, even weeks and months later.

Martha Ogburn, the shop’s owner, said customers frequently say they saw the store during 3rd Friday and came back later.

“From a PR standpoint, it’s huge for me,” she said.

Mayor Jake Day said some 3rd Friday vendors and artisans have gone on to become small business owners.

“That’s a pretty good sign of an economic impact,” he said.

This month’s 3rd Friday is not only the event’s 10th anniversary, it also coincides with the 50th anniversary of the landing of Apollo 11 astronauts on the moon in 1969, so the theme is Moon Walk.

3rd Friday will experiment with a new footprint again this month, as Main Street construction progresses.  Artists and crafters will still gather on the Downtown Plaza, but the rest of the fun is moving down to Parking Lot 15 and West Market Street in front of Acorn Market and Angello’s Unique Gifts. 

Special activities in Lot 15 will include the bookmobile, a moon bounce and food trucks. Attendees are also invited to stop by Lot 15 for a slice of a giant space-themed cake, and to sign an anniversary card.  

Contestants can compete in Moon Walk competition at 6 p.m. The winner will receive a signed Erick Sahler 10-color silkscreen print commemorating the lunar landing.

For more space-themed fun, there will be a free screening of First Man, a movie about the life of Neil Armstrong starring Ryan Gosling in the Wicomico County Public Library’s Entrepreneurship Center on the lower level at 5 p.m, complete with free popcorn.  The movie is rated PG-13. 

In the Downtown Salisbury Visitor Center you can “Meet-A-Meteorite” – a real life space rock after it crashed landed to Earth, and make a Moon and Stars Mobile craft for kids.  Plus, Barefoot Baby Boutique is calling all kids dressed as their favorite astronaut, or with a space toy to come get free astronaut space ice cream while supplies last. 

On the Plaza, there will be live music from the Josh Pryor Trio, also known as JP3.  At 5:30, the city of Salisbury will present a proclamation to 3rd Friday founders, board members and volunteers in celebration of its 10-year anniversary. 

The Salisbury Jaycees will be on the Plaza pouring beer and wine and check and St. Peter’s Episcopal Church Courtyard will be the site for family-friendly prices on burgers and dogs fresh off the grill. 

The Salisbury Police Department will also be on site with huge giveaways in promotion of National Night Out — coming Aug. 6 to Salisbury’s City Park — with 10 bikes to give away, plus Frisbees, glow balls and bracelets.

Salisbury Art Space will host “Oceans & Rivers” in their Main Gallery, a special exhibition celebrating the beauty the importance of our natural and cultural heritage.   The show will feature artwork from the Nanticoke River Alliance’s 2018 “Water You Doing” Student Street Art Competition and the foyer gallery will showcase the Attic Artists group.

Salisbury University Art Galleries | Downtown Campus will again show “Carl Goldhagen:  The Long View- Selected Works 1970s to the Present”, but with an additional special reading from 7 to 9 p.m. where local writers and poets have been invited to share response poems or flash fiction inspired by Goldhagen’s work.  The event is a collaboration between Salisbury University Art Gallery and the Eastern Shore Writers Association, with the final prize being awarded by Salisbury’s Poet Laureate Nancy Mitchell.    

The Downtown bars and restaurants are ready with live music for 3rd Friday. 

Brew River is hosting a Friday Night Dock Party with the Ryan Forrester Band from 6 to 10 p.m. and the Uprizing Band inside at 9 p.m. 

Roadie Joe’s Bar and Grill will have live music on the patio with KT Tuminello from 6 to 9 p.m. and late-night rock band The Joshes from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. 

Market Street Inn will have late night jams with DJ E-State and Mojo’s will have DJ Vybe.

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