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First Friday gets downtown swinging

POSTED: May 11, 2013 12:12 a.m.
Nat Gurley/The Times

The Southern Gentlemen Dixieland Jazz Band livens up Gainesville's downtown square Friday evening during the First Friday event, which was postponed by rain from last week. Band members are, from left, Richard Hunt, trombone; David Hunt, clarinet; Chet Burchfield, upright bass; Evan Jones, trumpet; and Steve Chanin, drums. Emmett Young, banjo picker for the Macon band, isn't shown.

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The First Friday events in downtown Gainesville have started up again and are expected to bring more vistors to the shops and restaurants around the square.

The events, put on by Main Street Gainesville periodically through the summer, kicked off Friday with a performance by the Southern Dixieland Gentlemen Band, a jazz combo.

Different bands are featured every first Friday of the month through October. The event was scheduled to start last week but was postponed due to rain.

“What we’re trying to generate is something that people can come down (to), maybe to see some art and listen to some music,” Main Street Gainesville Manager Regina Mansfield said. “We’ll plan your whole date night for you. You can go eat at a restaurant, do some strolling and then go listen to some music.”

The jazz band was setting up as eighth-grade students took photos on the square before a school dance. Mansfield said the band was able to reschedule.

“They called and told us they were available this week, so we decided to do it,” Mansfield said. “We’re always up for spur-of-the-moment things.”

Another group, The Fly Betty Band, was scheduled to play at the kickoff but now will play in October.

“The other bands we have are like party rock bands, dance bands and cover bands, so we try to cover everything and have something for everyone,” Mansfield said. “Having events like this gets a different crowd out.”

Signs are posted in the downtown area, which is how Nane Perry found out about the event while visiting from out of town with her sister and brother-in-law, who live in Oakwood.

Another couple wandered over with their coffee to the benches lining the square.

Sam Couvillon, who was taking some pictures on the square with his daughter before her eighth-grade dance, said events like this are one of the things he enjoys about living in Gainesville.

“Moving here from somewhere like Jacksonville, Fla. — a bigger town — it’s one of the charming things about Gainesville,” he said. “It’s one of the events that makes Gainesville what it is.”

The First Friday event also features local artists displaying their works.

“We welcome any artists to contact our office because we’re always looking for that,” Mansfield said.

One local artist featured Friday was Dad and Daughter Designs, a family business that crafts jewelry out of silverware from the 1800s. Owner LeAnne Nicholson said this was her first time coming but she was hoping for a good turnout.

Mansfield said she expected a turnout anywhere from 100 to 1,000 visitors.

“We’re all about getting people downtown,” she said.


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