Tuesday, 31 March 2009 17:19

The First 4th Friday Event in Downtown Clearwater Featured

Written by  Heidi Lux and Ana Livingston
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Spectators enjoy March Madness entertainment and refreshments at the inaugural 4th Friday Event in Downtown Clearwater - Photo by Simaen Skolfield
Spectators enjoy March Madness entertainment and refreshments at the inaugural 4th Friday Event in Downtown Clearwater - Photo by Simaen Skolfield

March Madness in Downtown Clearwater

The first 4th Friday in Downtown Clearwater was held, fittingly, on the fourth Friday of March. "March Madness" closed down Cleveland Street from East Avenue all the way down to Osceola. 

The Clearwater Community Volunteers had their signature train giving rides up and down the street. It was the perfect evening for friends and families to come together and wander the streets while browsing the vendor tables, or to share an after-work-week drink while enjoying the free live music. Local downtown restaurants were open and many stores had booths. Intuition Salon sold jewelry and handbags, Pangea Cafe' offered muffins and their signature Illy coffee, and Bella Pucci Grooming Salon took the opportunity to advertise their new change of location.

The Clearwater High School Tornadoes - Photo by Simaen Skolfield
The Clearwater High School Tornadoes - Photo by Simaen Skolfield

The Strand and Water's Edge condos both had booths, in case someone fell so in love with Downtown they didn't want to leave.  Misty Sanders, from the newly-opened Planet Cafe, was thrilled that the event gave them the chance to serve food to folks who came to March Madness. "We get to promote. People don't know us yet. People keep walking by and asking what's over here, so now we get to tell them we have a restaurant inside. It's a beautiful night. Everyone is walking outside. It should be exciting."

Fitting with the sports theme that night, the Clearwater Downtown Partnership (CDP), honored the Clearwater High School basketball team and their coach, llen Carden. The Tornados made it all the way to the state championship this year. "It was one of the greatest seasons I've ever played. These kids have so much potential, and the coach, one of the best I've ever played for," says Malcolm Grigley, a senior who's thinking of going to Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University next year. "It's the greatest thing in the world...I loved it."

Todd Rundgren’s performance following the 4th Friday event - Photo by Simaen Skolfield
Todd Rundgren’s performance following the 4th Friday event - Photo by Simaen Skolfield

In addition to the free live music by both The Greg Billings Band and The Invasion Band, who both performed on a makeshift stage set up next to Dunkin Donuts, Ruth Eckerd Hall closed the block between Ft. Harrison and Osceola, just outside of their new Capitol Theatre, and set up the Todd Rundgren concert.

Todd, with his distinct silver and black hair, belied his years by putting on an energizing sold-out concert that thrilled his fans, some of whom traveled quite a distance to see him.  The open-air venue added to his well-crafted, rebellious style of music, and he was quick to joke, when playing some of his older tunes, “If you thought THAT was old, let’s get crinkly!” Todd also heartily thanked his fans for coming out in droves, particularly during the current economy.  All in all, it was a concert that ignited downtown, and as he stated himself (with a hint of sarcasm), “Good thing nobody lives around here, cause they ain’t sleeping tonight!”

Ruth Eckerd Hall plans on continuing their concert series for every 4th Friday, so music lovers will be drawn to the district for the jams, and stay for the good food and good times.  As Robert Freedman, President and CEO of Ruth Eckerd Hall stated, “We want to revitalize downtown by bringing more businesses as that’s what a community is all about.  A lot of people haven’t been downtown in years – this is a great reintroduction to how alive downtown Clearwater is.”

The Clearwater Threshers mascot, “Phinley” on the CCV train - Photo by Simaen Skolfield
The Clearwater Threshers mascot, “Phinley” on the CCV train - Photo by Simaen Skolfield

The concept of 4th Friday was put forward by the Clearwater Downtown Partnership, a non-profit group made up of "property owners, developers, concerned citizens and civic groups" from the area who are working together "to name, fund and implement projects that will assist the public and private sectors in averting blight and creating a downtown district that becomes a regional destination." They pitched the idea to the city, which took to it right away, and tested it last December with the "Miracle on Cleveland Street," where the same downtown blocks were closed to traffic and snow was even imported from Gainesville. The test run was successful, bringing over 2,000 people downtown to enjoy the festivities, and so "4th Friday" was born.

4th Fridays, in addition to being a good time for all, will benefit a different non-profit group each month. The first organization to receive the profits from beer sales and tips was the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. There will be a rotation of several non-profit groups, including both the Aquarium and the CDP. The organizations chosen were all groups with an interest in the downtown region.

4th Fridays will continue to be held on the fourth Friday of every month downtown on Cleveland Street, and each month will have a different theme.

Read 1600 times Last modified on Thursday, 02 April 2009 18:08