Firefly Nights takes wing with well-received opening street fair

Amelia Airharts

By DAVID DUPONT

BG Independent News

Firefly Nights, a series of summer festivals spearheaded by a groups of downtown businesswomen, got a huge boost from Mother Nature.

Clear skies and temperatures in Goldilocks range, neither too hot nor too cold, set the tone for what organizers and visitors alike declared a success, Friday night.

Weenie Dawgs

Hundreds of people enjoyed music, shopping, craft booths, activities for children, food, beverages and just hanging out with friends and neighbors, along two blocks of Main Street that were closed to traffic for the evening..

“It was beyond good, it was exceptional. It literally brought tears to all of our eyes to see the overwhelming amount of support we have in the community,” said Stacie Banfield, the owner of Mode Elle Boutique.

She along with Laura Wicks, of Grounds for Thought, Kati Thompson, Eden Fashion Boutique, and Gayle Walterbach, of Coyote Beads, banded together early this year to discuss a summer community celebration in downtown.

Firefly Nights was launched.

Late Friday as they started wrapping up the event, Thompson and Banfield reflected on the first street festival.

Sam Dell

“This exceeded all our expectations,” Thompson said. “It’s all we could have hoped for and it happened on the first night. Amazing.”

The organizers recruited other businesswomen and a mixed-gender crew of 80 to 100 volunteers to help stage the event. Those interested in lending a hand can visit fireflynightsbg.com to volunteer.

As director of the Bowling Green State University student union, part of Patrick Nelson’s job is to bring visitors to campus. He was impressed by the response to Firefly Nights. “Bowling Green is alive and well tonight,” he said “You couldn’t ask for a better first night.”

He and his family, including visitors from New Mexico, came downtown. His family from out of state wondered: “Is it like this every night?”

Nelson said he hoped people got a chance to visit the downtown businesses that stayed open late to reacquaint themselves with what’s here.

Crowds dining outside on Doc’s

Even as closing hour approached, customers were still coming into Finder’s Records. The store had stayed open an hour later, something it does for Record Store Day and the Black Swamp Arts Festival, and now Firefly Nights. “It’s been very positive for our business,” said clerk Marissa Medley. “It’s really fun.”

Zach Baroudi, the owner of Kabob-It, also gave the event a thumbs up He had a food stall out on Main Street.

“Everything was perfect,” he said. “Good for the community, good for us, good for surrounding restaurants. We’re very happy with it.”

Artists Carol Smestad’s booth had a number of young models waiting.

He did a brisk business with a variety of ready to-go Lebanese food selections. His big seller was a chicken combo that won raves from judges during the One-Bite Contest held as a part of Art Walk in April.

He was also handing out samples, which helped raise awareness of his restaurant in the 100 block of East Wooster.

Photographer Louis Staeble was selling his work on the street. He, too, was using the event to make contacts. And he also sold a number of photos.

“It’s fun,” he said, and he hopes after the first festival more people will be know about it and join that fun.

“I think it’s cool that they’re supporting all the local businesses,” BGSU student Taylor Kronenberger.

Amelia Airharts

She and her friends Tori Dingledein and Kirstyn Reimer had wandered down from campus where they are working and taking classes this summer.

They were impressed by the event, especially the musical offerings on four stages.

Kronenberger said they were looking forward to the next one. “We’ll bring more people with us.”

Jan Gamble and Cindy Cowles were among those who came down to see what the event was all about.

“It’s a nice combination of things for people to do,” Gamble said

Cowles noted the number of college-age volunteers. She said she always likes to see when students get involved in the community.

Gamble said this was a good start.  “Maybe they’ll add a few more things.”

Craig and Jody Flick also came down out of curiosity.

She liked the family-oriented nature of the event.

He said their daughter said it was “almost like Fremont Street in Las Vegas with all the vendors. All you need the lights over the street.”

Banfield said that “the laughter and smiles on everybody’s faces” is what made organizing Firefly Nights so worthwhile for her.

Thompson said she was pleased to see people of all ages, babes in arms to senior citizens, enjoying themselves. “There’s more to come in July and August.” Those dates are July 20 and Aug. 17.

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