Friday After 5 wraps up its 23rd season on the Owensboro riverfront on Friday, Aug. 30.
"We think this was among our best years," Kirk Kirkpatrick, a Friday After 5 board member, said this week. "Since we don't sell tickets, it's difficult to tell about numbers. But the crowds were good."
This week, the Greater Owensboro Realtor Association/Bike Night event features a wide variety of music.
NKG, a party dance band, takes the stage on the BB&T Plaza at the RiverPark Center at 6:30 p.m.
Chris Joslin, executive director of the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum, will play bluegrass in the Atmos Energy Courtyard at the RiverPark Center, starting at 7 p.m.
Jericho Woods will be playing country music on the Kentucky Legend Pier behind the Owensboro Convention Center at 8 p.m.
All That will be playing blues, funk, pop, classic rock and country on the Overlook Stage at 7 p.m.
And Glenn's Movie Night at the Museum will offer a free showing of "O Brother, Where Art Thou" at 7 p.m. in the Hall of Fame.
Randy Lanham, the Hall of Fame's education director, and the Lousville-based band Relic, will perform several songs from the movie in the lobby before the show.
Kirkpatrick said, "It's amazing how the downtown entertainment district has grown through the years. All of the restaurants and pubs are part of the party now. A lot have added live music too."
Last spring, the city created an entertainment destination center liquor license, which allows people to walk between establishments downtown with alcoholic beverages in their hands during Friday After 5 and other events that apply for the license.
"People feel comfortable about going from place to place without having to down their drinks before they leave a building," Kirkpatrick said.
He said when he evaluates a crowd, "I look to see if all the park benches (in Smothers Park) are full. And they usually are."
There were only a couple of weeks this summer where the weather didn't cooperate with the mostly outdoor festival, Kirkpatrick said.
"This was one of best years for the weather," he said.
Kirkpatrick said, "Between 10% and 12% of the people are from out of town. The (Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau) gave us a grant to market outside the area and it's working."
FA5 helps sell city
Friday After 5 helps sell organizations to have their conventions in Owensboro because of the free entertainment on Friday nights, he said.
And, Kirkpatrick said, "Officials from sports tournaments come to see us before making a decision. It helps sell the city. We work hand in hand with the CVB and the city. The focus remains on our guests."
This year, readers of the Messenger-Inquirer named Friday After 5 their favorite community event and their favorite after-work gathering spot.
"That type of recognition really helps," Kirkpatrick said. "We're starting on our second generation of adults at Friday After 5. A lot of people don't remember a time before Friday After 5. It's a signature event for Owensboro."
Smothers Park "magical place"
He said, "I love seeing people's reactions to the magic of Smothers Park. We take it for granted now. But it's a magical place. There's a really nice atmosphere. Before Smothers Park was finished, it was shoulder-to-shoulder on the patio. Now, it's spread out over nine-tenths of a mile."
Kirkpatrick said this year the festival has attracted several out-of-town sponsors.
Twelve food trucks have been available with a variety of food, he said.
And the free festival now has more than 20,000 fans on Facebook, Kirkpatrick said.
"We want people to feel safe and comfortable," he said. "I've met people from the Netherlands and other countries down there. I've taken people from three cities around to show them Friday After 5 because they want to do something like it in their hometown. Everybody needs to take a break, put down their phones and talk to people. I see people down there that I haven't seen in years."
Next year, because of a quirk in the calendar, the festival will expand to 17 weeks -- rather than 16 -- for the first time since 2015.
Kirkpatrick said, "We're looking for volunteers and sponsors for next year and we're already talking about our 25th year" in 2021.
Friday After 5 offers what it calls class pre-unions -- on the night before the reunion -- to area groups.
There were 32 of them this year, Kirkpatrick said.
The end of the 2019 season means that preparations are beginning for 2020.
And by next summer, Kirkpatrick said, the downtown bridge should be lighted again -- providing a nice backdrop for the festival.
Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301, firstname.lastname@example.org.