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A night of music, commerce on the square
Downtown After Hours event keeps Gainesville businesses humming past dusk
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Customers often complain that downtown Gainesville businesses close too early on the weekends, and business owners complain that there aren't enough customers to stay open later.

All of that changed Saturday — at least temporarily.

Main Street Gainesville sponsored Downtown After Hours, bringing in a band and convincing businesses to stay open until 8:30 p.m.

"A lot of stores aren't open on Saturdays. The ones that are, typically close around 3 or 4 (p.m.)," said Mary Beth Begley, owner of The Crystal Plate on Bradford Street.

"To me, downtown is fun — it's even more fun with the band and everything. (This event) has brought more people downtown. I wouldn't mind seeing this happen once a month."

While the band SideShow entertained the crowd with live covers of hits from today and yesterday, the growing crowd moved in and out of shops. Some even set up lawn chairs to enjoy the tunes.

"I like the music," said 8-year-old Cloe Reynolds, in between practicing cartwheels on the square's lawn with 6-year-old sister, Ella Reynolds.

In addition to drawing more weekend visitors to the area, the event also served as a welcome to Brenau University's freshman class. On top of goodie bags with coupons and samples from downtown businesses, the students were treated to milkshakes at the Collegiate Grill on Main Street.

"It would've been nice if there was something like this when I was a freshman," said Danielle Cesar, a Brenau junior and resident adviser.

"It gives us an opportunity to interact and be more involved with our surrounding community."

Although early afternoon rain showers threatened to overshadow the event, skies cleared in time for the band to set up and begin its show at 6:30.

"The weather turned out to be nice," said James Joiner, a Gainesville resident.

"This is great — there's a breeze blowing and it's not too hot."

While Saturday's event was a first for the Main Street program, it may not be the last.

"We want to do this annually to welcome the Brenau students to Gainesville. This was also a (test) to see how the community responds to later (downtown business) hours on Saturdays," said Angela Thompson, program manager.

"All of the business owners were excited about participating. We all want to see what works best and how we can get more people downtown on the weekends."

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