4th Friday in Downtown Clearwater has been the place to go to unwind and enjoy live music and entertainment at the end of the month since March, but many people don’t know what goes into producing the “party on the street”. The idea for 4th Friday originated during the success of Miracle on Cleveland Street in December 2008, which served as a pilot for the series. “That’s what was really the genesis of 4th Friday,” says Bill Sturtevant, CEO of the Clearwater Downtown Partnership. The Clearwater Downtown Partnership (CDP) has the purpose to “build an exciting, vibrant and diverse downtown.” One of the ways the CDP achieves this is by putting on 4th Friday.
Although the CDP is behind 4th Friday, the event is planned by a CDP committee consisting of CDP executive board members Howard Warshauer, Eleanore Lyda, Jenny Esno, Martin Smith, Karla Jo Helms and Jay Polglaze. The first 4th Friday in Clearwater was March 2009’s “March Madness” themed event. In May the series went on summer vacation, due to the seasonal heat and rainstorms, returning in September without missing a beat. The purpose of the 4th Friday events is to bring as many people to Downtown Clearwater as possible. The average attendance for 4th Friday is 2,800 people. The event also provides local businesses an opportunity to feature themselves and help boost sales. 45 vendors line the street in Downtown Clearwater every 4th Friday, with a waiting list of 25 applicants. “They want to be here,” says Sturtevant. “They see some value in being here.” Since the events started, four new restaurants have found homes in Downtown including Divino Fine Italian, Planet Café, La Cachette and Casanova, The Baldwin Connelly Family of Companies has moved into the area, and Warehaus, Intuition Salon and Spa and Peter Gillham’s Vitamin Center have expanded their businesses, with both Intuition Salon and Spa and Warehaus moving into new, larger premises. “It brings a real awareness there’s something going on,” says Sturtevant. 4th Friday truly is a community event. The Clearwater Downtown Partnership may be the organizers, but they receive a lot of help from their sponsors. Each month, Costco donates bottled water and soda, and Budget Storage provides space for the CDP to store their equipment. Advertising is donated in the form of radio spots from Q105, print ads from the Tampa Bay Informer, and postcard flyers from PostcardMania. Money for the event is donated by the Clearwater Downtown Development Board and Five-Five-One, a new restaurant opening soon on Clearwater Beach. The list of sponsorships has grown so large, Sturtevant jokes they’re having problems fitting everyone on the postcard. The event also serves as a fundraiser for a different non-profit group each month, through beer and wine sales. October’s benefiting non-profit was Clothes to Kids, which provides free clothing for children of low-income families. Previous non-profits have included the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, the Clearwater Jazz Holiday, and Miles for Hope. In addition to monetary contributions, 4th Friday gives the opportunity for these non-profits to be seen by a lot of people, and to get the word out about what they do. November’s 4th Friday entertainment line up will feature a tribute to the Blues Brothers by the Official Blues Brothers of the Chicago Bears, who have performed for the Bears’ halftime crowds. They will share the stage with The Mainstream Band featuring Kirsten Joyer. The event is not only an opportunity for members of our community to enjoy yummy food, great entertainers and shop outdoors, it’s truly a family activity; complete with a bouncy house and giant inflatable slide for the kids, provided by the Clearwater Community Volunteers. The Clearwater Veterans Alliance will be the benefiting charity this November. But that’s not all folks, the very next Friday, Dec 4th the spectacular “Miracle on Cleveland Street” returns by popular demand. This year the CDP has ordered not only one, but two real live snow slides as last year children and parents were lined up and down Cleveland Street for the thrill of snow in Clearwater. And, of course the “Miracle” wouldn’t be complete without a visit from Santa, who will make his grand entrance just before lighting up the 17th Annual Winter Wonderland around the corner on Ft Harrison Ave. So, come one come all and don’t forget your mittens.