First Thursday on Main in June. Photo by Thomas Hammond
Whether it’s the heat, people leaving town on vacation or just a general desire to sit back and relax, the summer is typically down time in Columbia’s arts community. With fewer shows in all genres — visual, theatrical, musical — the most hardcore patrons are left chomping at the bit for artistic experiences, a situation that has helped boost the popularity of the city’s First Thursday on Main Street arts gathering.
Last month, the event saw the biggest turnout in its five-year history despite the traditional summer arts slowdown. Simply put, the event is that much more enticing when there isn’t much else going on, making it now one of the city’s biggest artistic attractions of the summer.
If you haven’t attended a First Thursday, the monthly event is a combined gallery crawl and street festival featuring visual art in numerous galleries and retail stores, along with music and dance both indoors and on the street and sidewalks, and previews of upcoming theatrical productions. Area bars, restaurants and specialty shops contribute to all this by offering First Thursday deals to the many wandering patrons.
This month’s installment, which runs from 6 to 10 p.m. on July 3, includes musicians from the Philharmonic outdoors (1200 block of Main Street); margarita specials at Cantina 76 (1300 block); a custom car show (1400 block); artwork at Frame of Mind and Carolina Hair Studios (1500 block); artwork from Susan Lenz at Tapp’s Arts Center (1600 block); and Palmetto Opera Night at Villa Tronco, just off the 1700 block of Main Street on Blanding Street. And there’s much more, too. With more than 30 businesses participating, you can get a full list of activities at firstthursdaysonmain.com.
The growth of First Thursday isn’t restricted to attendance, either — the event has literally expanded. What began as a three-store effort to draw customers to the 1500 block of Main Street now runs all the way from the State House to City Hall.
“We have been able to grow the footprint of the event to stretch from the 1200 to the 1700 block,” notes event founder and coordinator Mark Plessinger of Frame of Mind. “With this, the grassroots aspect of what we’ve been doing for these last five years of the event has taken off and allowed for buy-in from the many businesses and organizations who make up our Main Street district. Folks are partnering and taking ownership of their blocks and offering attendees fun, art and a glimpse into what they bring to Main Street as businesses, artists and merchants.”
With its success in revitalizing the Main Street business corridor via unity and collaboration, First Thursday has now also attracted some government support, helping to establish its presence even more powerfully.
“Word of mouth has worked well for us over the history of our existence as an event,” Plessinger says. “People who come to First Thursday enjoy it and come back with friends or family, who then do the same. We’ve also been able to increase our social media presence as well as leveraging more advertising locally and regionally — and with the [city] hospitality tax dollars we were awarded last year as an official South Carolina nonprofit. We want to showcase our revitalized Main Street, which we often refer to as South Carolina’s Main Street.”
As for the future, Plessinger says that he has reached his original goal of expanding the event to its current boundaries, but that new interest continues to tug at those borders as other nearby businesses and institutions actively seek to participate.
“There are already several businesses on Taylor and Lady Street just around the corner from Main which are taking part,” Plessinger notes. “We’ve had some general conversations with others and we may see the event spread further. We also have a vibrant community of urbanites already living above the businesses on Main, and more coming with the opening of Hub Columbia in just the next one or two months. It’s hard to say just how much bigger First Thursday will get.”
Happy Hour and Sushi Specials All Week
Red Bowl in Lexington now has great early bird and late night sushi specials 7 days a week, as well as 99-cent kids meals on Saturdays! Click here for special information and hours.
Tax-Free Weekend at Best Mattress
With big savings from July 31st-August 2nd, you can afford handcrafted quality. Free bed frame and pillows on any Full, Queen, or King set $599 and above! Click for locations and hours.
New Downtown Dessert and Coffee Bar!
Tony’s Italian Eatery has teamed up with Southern Charm Sweets to bring you the highest quality dessert selection in the downtown area. 1120 Washington St., Suite 2. Find us on Facebook!
Columbia’s Largest Sidewalk Sale
Shop local this tax free weekend! Devine Street and Five Points are teaming up for a massive sidewalk sale featuring great in-store specials from all your favorite retailers and a Saturday art stroll. Read more hereand here!
A Healthy Happy Hour
4-7 p.m at Good Life Cafe on Main St. Try our $4 local draft beers, $4 organic wine, 1/2 off select bottles of house wine and $5 handcrafted house cocktails with juices cold pressed and made daily. Click here for more info.
Relaxation, Pain Management, and Stress Relief
Licensed massage therapist Allison Morris of AMR Massage is offering 50% off your first session and every 5th session free of charge. Click here for location, hours, and more information.
SEARCH FREE TIMES
U.S. Security Associates
Now hiring immediately for armed and unarmed security officers. WE TRAIN YOU! Columbia & surrounding areas. ussecurityassociates.com
Real Estate Spotlight
Concord Park From the $150’s. Off 12th St. Extension. 803.419.2227. mungo.com
Click here for more real estate.
WATERFORD APARTMENTS 1 & 2 BR’s available with many amenities. Prime location, and plenty of space. Live large at Waterford Apartments. Bring in our ad in Free Times for $50 off your application fee. 1340 Longcreek Dr., Columbia, SC. Click here for more info.
GABLE HILL APARTMENTS 1, 2 & 3 BR’s available with many amenities. Surround yourself with Southern comforts at Gable Hill Apartments! Bring in our ad in Free Times for $50 off your application fee. 310 Ross Rd, Columbia, SC. Click here for more info.
ST. ANDREWS COMMONS APARTMENTS 1 & 2 BR’s available with many amenities. Close to everywhere YOU WANT TO BE! 1200 St. Andrews Rd., Columbia, SC. Click here for more info.
Donate Plasma Today & Be Somebody’s Hero For Life. You could earn up to $400 a month! Program and fees vary per location. Contact your local center today. 803-736-5888. Click here for more info