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First Fridays May Make a Comeback

Street closure could resolve insurance issues, Old Town Foundation president says.

First Friday street fairs could resume in Old Town as early as March—with Elk Grove Blvd closed to vehicle traffic.

Old Town Elk Grove Foundation leaders are discussing the plan with city leaders and the Cosumnes Fire Department, who have been generally supportive, said foundation president Paula Maita.

The popular monthly festivals centered on art and shopping were , due to insurance costs generated by the crowds of people who swarm sidewalks during the event. Unlike at Old Town's annual and , cars were allowed to travel down the neighborhood's narrow main drag, passing inches from pedestrians.

Closing the street "solves a good portion of our insurance issues because we don't have to worry about a runaway car running into the people we've invited to our part of town," said Maita at the foundation's meeting Tuesday night.

Elk Grove Blvd would close down between 2nd Avenue and School Street from about 4:30 to about 9:00 p.m. once a month, Maita said.

City spokesperson Christine Brainerd said the city was "evaluating the option, but a decision has not yet been made."

The idea got an immediate, enthusiastic response from the 30 business owners and community members gathered at the Grange Hall.

"It's encouraging that First Friday is coming back," said Sharon Santucci, who owns . "It generates more business for us that evening."

At the potluck dinner, business owners also discussed forming a merchants' association that could more directly promote shopping in Old Town. As a non-profit, the foundation, which had about 50 members last year, can accept donations from the city and others. But it has struggled to balance its legal duties as a 501(c)3 organization with retailers' goals.

Board members said they had originally included a list of Old Town businesses on the foundation's website, but were told by the Internal Revenue Service to take it down because it constituted advertising for profit—a prohibited activity for a foundation.

Julie Quattrin, owner of floral and gift shop , said she'd like to see a business association like Placerville's Downtown Association, which hires a staff person, compiles a directory of shops, and hosts events like car shows and wine tastings.

"There's a lot of things they could do to bring money into the community—and not just money, but fun," she said.

Other items on the business owners' wish list include setting up a website that would list retail vacancies in the district, and creating a brochure with a map that could be handed out to shoppers. The retailers concluded by setting up a committee to explore joint advertising campaigns—either as an informal working group or as a new merchants' association.

Some said that when it came to supporting Elk Grove's historic center, their efforts were as much about preserving a small-town way of life as nurturing profitable businesses.

"First Friday is focused on how quaint this little town is, and strolling the street with your kids, seeing your friends," said Yolanda Molina, a foundation board member and owner of The Woof Rack pet apparel.

"If this were strictly about enhancing the merchants, I wouldn't be involved," added Frank Maita, Paula Maita's husband and a longtime Old Town resident. "I'm interested in providing some hope and a future for the street I grew up on."

Elk Grove Laguna Forums February 01, 2012 at 09:30 PM
We had a few good suggestions from our members. One, have the mobile food trucks show up. They could set up shop in the middle of the street since it will be closed. Another idea is have some entertainment like a band there playing some music. Maybe get the schools involved somehow. You get kids down there and then you get parents and family as well and it adds to the crowd. Maybe have one of the school bands perform and the drill team. The important thing is having something there to get people to come to see something they don't ordinarily have a chance to see. It can't be a few vendors selling trinkets, and some selling not so good food and oh by the way come check out the few stores we have here. I know this is to benefit the businesses there, but expanding it and thinking bigger will help the whole city which in turn can help the Old Town businesses. Partner with the city and the CSD and try to make this something the city can be proud of and also get the word out.
Chelsea Cardoza February 02, 2012 at 03:46 AM
It would be so great if First Friday makes it back. I'm crossing my fingers!
Mariam rocha February 08, 2012 at 05:20 PM
I love first Friday I hope it does make a come back. We need to support old town and keep it alive!
Carole IF March 13, 2012 at 12:08 AM
Keep the First Fridays. Sacramento and Folsom already have a Second Saturday. Why would you want to divide your potential participation? Closing the street is a great idea. And cut down on duplicate vendors. I've attended First Fridays and was really surprised at the duplication of Cookie Lee and that type of home-party vendor, as well as duplication in vendors who sold aprons and jewelry. Now the quality differed from booth to booth, but I just finally walked and didn't look. You want people to stop, look and chat! Give them something to chat about!

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