BY SHANNON WILEY
Downtown Salisbury kicks off its warm-weather events this upcoming weekend with its 1st Saturday Launch Party at Headquarters Live.
1st Saturday, which premiered in its first season last spring, is a musical event put on every first Saturday of the month by the Arts and Entertainment District of the city in order to garner a greater sense of community and to enhance the business and tourism sector of the city, according to its website.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever been to the downtown on a Saturday, but there really isn’t anyone down there” 1st Saturday Committee Co-chair and Media Representative Sarah Rayne said. “We wanted to kind of expand the reach of the events offered by Salisbury Arts and Entertainment District. We wanted to try and get more people downtown on a Saturday to see what’s down there.”
More than revitalizing downtown, Rayne says the event is really about community building.
“What I noticed a lot last year was I’d look around at the people at 1st Saturday and they’re just all different ages, all different races, there are college students, there are older folks, there are little kids,” she said, “and they’re all just sitting, enjoying this free concert.”
The actual 1st Saturday season does not start until April, but coordinators are using this launch party as a way to reintroduce the event to the community, fundraise and showcasing some of the new features attendees will be able to enjoy this coming season including new bands and the season’s lineup, as well as introduce the event’s newest feature: food trucks.
The food truck scheduled for the launch party on the fifth is the Sobos on the Road food truck.
The 1st Saturday Committee is also looking into bringing local breweries into the event for some alcohol sales.
The downtown event books full bands (no duos or acoustic acts) whose music they feel would appeal to a large variety of people to play at the event, but this year they are adding more variety to their bookings. This year, Rayne said, the committee has added bands representing more genders, ethnicities and genres.
In addition to bands, 1st Saturday also hosts a half hour intermission show where other acts can show off their talents, such as dancers, fire jugglers, clowns, gospel groups, school choirs or others.
All 1st Saturday events are free to attendees, but coordinators do pay the bands who perform and must pay for the new food trucks. At the launch party, a raffle, a silent auction,a chance auction and games will be offered in order to help fund raise for the upcoming season.
“The married couple who owns Amused Studios, they’re on our committee,” Rayne said. “They came up with this really awesome game where they, they own a pottery studio so they make pots and cups and dishes and put a bunch of them on shelves, on this portable shelf, and they have ping pong balls and if you make it into the bowl or pot or whatever, you can keep it. And they charge like a dollar for three balls.”
In addition to attractions provided by 1st Saturday, local vendors, non-profit organizations and for-profit organizations also have opportunities to present or sell goods.
While attendees will have the opportunity to browse the goods and tables set up by vendors and organizations, the 1st Saturday committee is also encouraging those attendees and local businesses to intermingle in order for more people to experience the variety of attractions downtown offers and for businesses to continue to grow.
Several 1st Saturday events this season will also be followed by Headquarters Live concerts.
“I think it’s great,” Roadie Joe’s owner, Headquarters Live manager and Brick Room Overseer Jeremy Norton said. “It’s super necessary. The community events are really are helping revitalize downtown. Downtown is a community space, as far as I’m concerned, so the more events and things like that that can get everybody involved, the better off it’ll be.
At similar events, such as Downtown Salisbury’s 3rd Friday which has been held for several years, establishments in the area said they have noticed a definite spike in business.
“We usually double a day’s worth of business,” Main Roots owner and manager Joseph Hill said of 3rd Friday.
“3rd Friday is actually our biggest night of the month, no matter what month,” Norton said.
Because of these trends, businesses have high hopes for how 1st Saturday can continue to grow and how it can help the community.
“1st Saturday, even though it’s still a baby, it’s getting better and better,” Norton said. “It’s growing, there’s no doubt.”
“The last one last year was out here in front of the court house so we saw a little bit of business from it because it was closer to us,” Hill said. “I think once it gets more publicity and once more people find out about it, it will definitely increase traffic.”
On the day of the event, free parking will be available throughout the day and the Downtown Trolley will be running from campus to downtown throughout, as well.
While the launch party will be held at Headquarters Live due to cold weather, most 1st Saturday events during the season will be held on the lawn of the Government Office Building on North Division Street while rain dates for the events are split between Headquarters Live and Roadie Joe’s, both located in Downtown Salisbury.
“I’m excited about the prospects and what it can do for downtown,” Cake Art Owner Susan Patt said, “bringing people out.”