Helena celebrates First Fridays

Helena's new First Friday tradition welcomes each month with family fun and shopping in Old Town. (Contributed)

Helena’s new First Friday tradition welcomes each month with family fun and shopping in Old Town. (Contributed)

By MOLLY DAVIDSON / Staff Writer

HELENA—While some people look forward to leaving work on Fridays, businesses in Helena’s Old Town are staying open late, at least once a month that is.

Starting this past November, Helena has welcomed each month with First Friday, a new tradition brought from Lakeland, Fla., by Helena business owner Kim McCoy. Businesses stay open until 9 p.m., vendors and food trucks line the streets, and residents are invited to come out and enjoy the town.

“It was very successful for merchants and a chance for residents to come out and have a great time,” said McCoy of First Fridays in Lakeland. “I wanted to benefit everyone here, if we’re all doing well it’s a great boost.”

So far, the new tradition has been a hit with Helena residents and business owners alike. McCoy said that although attendance is weather dependent, she believes around 75 businesses and vendors participated in November’s First Friday, and 1,500 people attended the event.

Businesses in Old Town have benefited from increased foot traffic and enjoy the family atmosphere of the event. Many try to have something special for customers to enjoy during First Fridays.

“The whole point is to get people interested and to invest in their community. It gives people a chance to stop and check (the town) out,” said owner and resident artist of Buck Creek Stained Glass David Schlueter, who blows glass during First Fridays.

Although he has a very specific cliental, Schlueter estimated between 50 and 60 people stopped by his shop during November’s First Friday to watch him blow glass.

Amy Webb, owner of Helena Mercantile, echoed Schlueter’s sentiment.

“We try to have something special,” Webb said. “It’s nice to see life in Old Town and see families out.”

Each First Friday has a unique theme related to the month and supports a different group. April’s theme is “spring extravaganza,” and the evening will benefit the Helena Beautification Board. Family-friendly activities will also be available. McCoy encourages people to “bring their families and enjoy the community.”

More information about First Friday can be found on the event’s Facebook page and on its website, Firstfridayhelena.com.