First Friday planners want patrons ‘activated’

Every month, First Friday has a theme. And every month the street intersections that host the art and culture festival have “activations” that correlate with the theme. Usually large-scale performance artists.

This month’s theme is “Free to Be.” The public — that means you — is invited to provide the activations.

“They’re activations because they’re activating the minds and hearts of everyone attending,” says Charles Ressler, who handles communications and sponsorships for the event. And having the community express them this month “is the very definition of being free.”

Whether that means rocking a hula hoop downtown or setting up an easel and going to town on the interpretation of freedom is up to you.

Other than self-administered activations, the Welcome Tent will also offer something new. Sponsored by Tabeso, a discovery platform that allows users to better explore events, an app will be offered to make navigating First Friday as simple as possible.

With more than 30 food trucks, for instance, users don’t have to walk past every last one to make a decision. Also, the event has grown and there’s a lot to take in. A childless couple probably won’t have an interest in the KidZone, but might want to know when exactly that singer-songwriter takes the stage at The Hub.

The app simplifies all that. As do the flat-screen TVs that break down the same information in the Welcome Tent.

Since First Friday is largely populated by a family demographic, the KidZone has become quite the draw. This month should be no exception with Mad Science of Las Vegas entertaining and educating its audience simultaneously. This group does the kind of things kids never get sick of watching, such as forming bubbles with smoke inside, and then explaining exactly how this is possible.

There will also be Disney artists here who are contracted to draw the brand’s famous characters, doing just that with a live audience.

For the kids who don’t think they’re kids, there’s the Shuffle Zone.

“It’s basically a dance area, almost like a nightclub for teens,” Ressler says. “So kids have a place to hang out with their friends and don’t feel like there’s a bunch of dumb adults around.”

It works twofold because adults appreciate not walking through breakdancing cyphers while trying to enjoy art.

Another thing adults appreciate? A spot designated just for cultural benefits. No promotional items or any sponsorship attached to it. Just a space solely devoted to their listening or visual pleasure. That’s The Hub.

“It’s very community-driven and always commerce and brand-free,” Ressler says. “We thought it was important to have a place specifically for enrichment.”

Over at Green Street, there will be a bike valet for anyone who saved fuel to get to the event. People can get in on the juice bar here, test their health or listen to unplugged music, such as a barbershop quartet.

If it seems like every stone has been turned in the planning of First Friday, that’s because it has. There’s a team of seven people who come up with a theme every month and cover every other facet regarding the festival. There are about seven more who handle things such as curating, bartending and other details that enhance the experience.

“We talk about what worked the month before and what didn’t. How the footprint worked or didn’t work,” Ressler says. “There’s an immense amount of thought that goes into every corner of this event.”

Contact Xazmin Garza at or 702-383-0477. Follow her on Twitter @startswithanx.

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