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City refreshes monthly Friday street parties

Sarasota OK's events through September after DID agrees to keep paying bulk of cost.


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  • | 11:40 a.m. April 21, 2022
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The Sarasota City Commission approved funding for four more months of Fresh Friday events on Monday, which will bring music, food from local vendors and other festivities to downtown monthly through September

Fresh Fridays launched in November with monthly installments since on the first Friday of each month. The bulk of the funding for the events, roughly $10,000 per event, has come from the Downtown Improvement District board, while the city has provided services for each event to date. The DID this month OK'd $10,000 monthly for four more months. 

“I think seeing people out at the restaurants, out at the bars and spending time in various shops, and I know many of those were not open at some times previously, but I think it served the community well,” Commissioner Kyle Battie said. “It represents what downtown is.”

The city will continue to provide special event permits, recycling and trash bins, traffic barricades and other services for the next four events after the Commission’s decision on Monday. The events cost the city a total of $16,696 for services during six previous events.

Commissioner Hagen Brody said the events are important for the community as they have signaled a return to normalcy after the COVID-19 pandemic. He said he has appreciated the diversity at past events and is excited to see diverse crowds in the future.

“What I’ve noticed in the past is the diversity of people who have come to these events,” Brody said. “It’s not just people who look different from one another, but they’ve attracted people of all ages. We have young people come out to these and a surprisingly large number of seniors, and I think it’s important we keep that going.”

Brody also highlighted the impact Fresh Fridays have had on downtown businesses. Each event last year featured local businesses and partners which is not expected to change going forward.

While each commissioner showed support for continuing the events, several questioned the name and branding of them. Some downtown organizations have called the events Fresh Fridays, while others have referred to them as First Fridays.

“At least for me, I think we should keep it as simple as possible,” Brody said. “For the people who read the first two words of an email and move on, it would be helpful to keep it simple. You can keep the idea of having Fresh Fridays, but with First Fridays, you can see what it is and when it is fairly easy.”

The next event is expected to occur on May 6.

Fresh Fridays have included seasonal themes in the past. Earlier this month, the theme was “Art on the Block” which included art opportunities for both children and adults, as well as food and music downtown.

“I think my favorite one was very simple,” Brody said. “It was the one where we had a good band, people were able to walk around, eat, drink and dance on the street. These events have involved a lot of work and effort and it really shows.”

Last year, major holidays such as Christmas in December and Valentine’s Day in February helped create the Fresh Fridays theme. The theme for May will be “Bloom in the Park” which will celebrate the Spring season.

Battie said he believes Fresh Fridays could also contribute to tourism from other cities in the region. He also said the events help identify downtown Sarasota and cement its impact on the entire county.

“Downtown Sarasota is our county’s urban core,” Battie said. “Events like this can really draw people from other areas in the county and in the region. I know of people who’ve come from Tampa, who’ve come from St. Petersburg for these events. Trust me, they’re coming.”