Skip Northgate on Feb. 7 for First Friday in historic Downtown Bryan, a something-for-everyone event featuring live music, food options from pizza to farm-to-table and locally owned shops of all stripes.
Beginning at 5 p.m. on the first Friday of every month, the streets in front of the Queen Theatre are blocked off for sidewalk chalk drawing, games and family friendly activities, according to the Downtown Bryan Association website. From tattoo artistry to craft breweries, the downtown shops typically attract 3,000 to 5,000 visitors – including an ever-growing number of college students – who stroll the brick-edged sidewalks until around 11 p.m., said Hannah Hernandez, the Downtown Bryan Association’s event coordinator.
Hernandez said First Friday is centered around local businesses, mobile food vendors, street performers and nonprofit organizations, while the second monthly event – Third Thursday Art Step on Feb. 20 – will also draw crowds to Downtown. Plans are underway for a March 20 event which Hernandez described as specially for college students.
What sets First Friday in Downtown Bryan apart from other events are the local businesses that often have special hours and attractions for the night, Hernandez said.
“First Friday is probably, as a lot of businesses would say, it’s their busiest night of the year,” Hernandez said. “We have so many people down here, and just with them participating there’s always new people coming down to First Friday.”
Rx Pizza and Bar manager Randy Cesar also said First Friday is their busiest night of the month with a packed patio and up to two-hour wait time. Those on the waitlist for dinner and drinks can continue to stroll until a text notifies them an Rx table is ready. The kitchen and bar stay open until 2 a.m. on First Friday, according to their website.
Ramblin’ Rose Mercantile owner Brandy Klintworth is Bryan born and raised, and said she has seen First Friday evolve over the past 15 years into something that features a wide range of free, live music throughout Downtown. Klintworth said her shop stays open until between 10:30 and 11 p.m. for what are her busiest nights of the year, and she often creates special attractions for the shop’s “shoulder-to-shoulder” First Friday visitors.
First Friday was created by Greta Watkins in October 2005 to bring people into her business, The Frame Gallery, at a time when Downtown Bryan was undergoing street and sidewalk renovations. The Downtown Bryan Association took over coordinating the event when it grew to encompass all of Downtown Bryan. Hernandez described First Friday as the state-designated cultural district’s signature event.
Watkins recalled the early days when other Downtown businesses started to join her in staying open late and feature local artists and musicians once a month.
“It’s very gratifying to come up with something that will hopefully last beyond my involvement,” Watkins said.