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Friday Night Live: Free music, fun and games on tap

Story by Keith Whitcomb Jr. Staff Writer | Originally posted in the Rutland Herald | July 11th, 2019

A series of street festivals that later this month will feature the likes of O-Town and Aaron Carter kicks off this Friday.

Friday Night Live will see Center Street in the city closed to traffic from 5 to 10 p.m. so people can enjoy music, food and games, said Nikki Hindman, marketing and events coordinator for the Downtown Rutland Partnership.

Two local children play giant connect 4 at Friday Night Live on July 13th, 2018.

Two local children play giant connect 4 at Friday Night Live on July 13th, 2018.

“At this first one, we have Love and Theft — they’re an American country band, very popular on the radio, they just put out a new single called ‘Angel Eyes,’” said Hindman in a Wednesday interview. “Logan Riesterer is performing at 7:30 p.m. as a supporting act. We are completely full for this, street vendor-wise, that’s very exciting for this year, so we’ll have cotton candy, we’ll have outdoor dining, this will be TASO On Center’s first year joining us with outdoor dining at their location because they’re new. We have Mission City Church returning with the bouncy house, we’ll have Mexican food, your standard American food. We’ll have barbecue, Hop’n Moose will be outside, creemees, there’s a little bit of everything for everyone at this point.”

New this year to the event is the location of the main stage. Hindman said it’ll be near the intersection of Center Street and Merchants Row. Previously it had been at “The Pit,” the parking lot at the corner of Center and Wales streets.

“So we’re hoping in this new spot, it’s raised up, everybody is going to see it all the way down the street and it’s going to create a more dynamic experience,” Hindman said .

On July 19, Friday Night Live will host O-Town and Aaron Carter, pop music acts that were known nationwide in the early 2000s.

“Everybody seems to be really excited for that one, I think a lot of people are excited to relive that nostalgic time and sing ‘I want candy’ to the stage,” Hindman said. “It’ll be really fun, I think it’s going to be well-attended.”

July 26 will see The Samples play.

“People are also excited about The Samples,” said Hindman. “They used to play around here.”

Steve Peters, executive director of Rutland Downtown Partnership, said Friday Night Live has been held for the past 15 years or so in the city, but he and Hindman are relatively new to their roles and have worked to make some changes.

A crowd full of people on Center Street enjoy games, music, food and more in Downtown Rutland at Friday Night Live on July 13th, 2018.

A crowd full of people on Center Street enjoy games, music, food and more in Downtown Rutland at Friday Night Live on July 13th, 2018.

“We both started two years ago, and I started two weeks before these events were happening, so the first year I started, they did not go well. But then we tried to make some goals and strategies for improving them because they’ve been going on at that point for 12 or 13 years, they needed a little refreshing,” Peters said. “We took some ideas from focus groups and tried to get community input on things, and then we publicized that we were making those changes.”

He said people wanted more food vendors, specifically the kind selling food people can carry around. They also wanted less smoking and more things to do.

Peters said there’ll be lots of games for people like chess, Jenga and Uno, except the game pieces are all oversized.

“We had a lot of positive feedback last year,” Peters said, estimating the event drew about 1,000 people.

He said the Downtown Rutland Partnership’s budget for summer events is $40,000, which covers three Friday Night Live events plus a street festival later on. He said attempts were made in the past to hold Friday Night Live every week throughout the summer, but he feels less is more in this case.

“You’re really diluting it at that point,” he said.

Information and updates on the Friday Night Live schedule can be found at downtownrutland.com/fridaynightlive

“We want people to come to this event and see there’s all these businesses they can come back to, or all these restaurants to come back and try,” Hindman added.

keith.whitcomb

@rutlandherald.com