First Friday’s Anniversary

Posted on December 13, 2012 by  
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First Friday organizers celebrated the monthly event’s first anniversary in style last week with a variety of holiday-themed festivities for the December “All Aboard for the Holidays” gathering.

The event included musicians and carolers performing throughout various areas of downtown Los Altos as children enjoyed free locomotive train rides and a visit from Santa Claus at 359 State St. In addition, Fiesta Vallarta, Maltby’s Restaurant & Tavern, Opa! and Ristorante Bella Vita hosted happy hours.

Organizer Joe Eyre told the Town Crier that First Fridays – a program of the Los Altos Community Foundation – originally started as a “social experiment” of sorts, citing the need to increase downtown vibrancy at night for merchants and shoppers alike.

Initially, he added, organizers from the grassroots group Los Altos Forward didn’t know what to expect when they kicked off the inaugural First Friday last year.

“We didn’t know what we were doing,” Eyre said with a chuckle about the event, featuring a different theme each month. “We just knew we wanted music and we wanted the merchants to stay open later.”

Eyre said organizers convinced approximately 25 downtown merchants to remain open until 8 p.m. for the initial event, which drew a sizable crowd and “set the stage for future events.” Since then, he added, First Fridays have consistently included the participation of 25-36 downtown merchants.

“I remember we were handing out Xeroxed copies of our program, which contained a map,” said Eyre, who estimated that 10-12 volunteers organize the event every month. “It was pretty basic, but the reception was great. We realized we were on to a good thing.”

And while the monthly event has gained in popularity, Eyre noted that a key part of its success stems from downtown visitors changing their shopping habits.

These days, he noted, several shoppers will purposely wait to purchase goods downtown until the monthly event occurs, because it offers the added benefit of serving as a social opportunity. Eyre added that the event has also caused several little-known downtown merchants to gain in popularity.

As for the future, Eyre said, organizers continue to work toward making First Fridays a part of the fabric that makes up downtown Los Altos.

“Hopefully we can keep this going. That’s the plan anyway,” Eyre said. “We don’t want to lose momentum now.”

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