By Andrea Stewart

The community spirit of Carbondale abounds for First Fridays monthly celebrations. This Carbondale Chamber of Commerce event was originally founded by Carbondale Arts as a means to drive the arts-based economy and has since spun into one of our best-loved traditions on the community calendar. We get to wander our hometown visiting our favorite local boutiques and galleries; there’s usually a gaggle of local kids enjoying the liberty of the street closures along with the entertainment taking place; we see our neighbors, colleagues and friends as we meander through the evening. Yet, as the initial COVID-19 global lockdown came abruptly into effect in March 2020 with subsequent restrictions on public gatherings, it’s hard to believe it’s been more than a calendar year without our favorite in-person community gathering.

But this coming Friday, May 7, after a year of absence, First Fridays returns to Carbondale, and it’s a stirring time for us all as we think about how to be together again as a community that thrives on that togetherness and camaraderie. There is a stirring happening inside us all, as we come through the experience of the pandemic with an optimistic feeling of new beginnings. We cautiously march forward as winter turns to spring in our Colorado mountain town and we look ahead, exhaling with relief and hope. There is excitement to see old friends and familiar faces, to get back to normality.

On the first Friday of the month, the town’s galleries and retailers along Main Street, Carbondale’s main Creative District, throw open their doors with extended hours to welcome shoppers and browsers. As well as late-night store and gallery openings and extended-hours street dining, there will be a series of staged entertainment areas throughout downtown Carbondale, including live music at Fourth and Main, a performance of indigenous song and dance by renowned native pride performer Larry Yazzie, who will present live flute music, storytelling and a majestic eagle dance. Carbondale’s Rotary Club will also host a fundraising “ball drop” in Sopris Park throughout the evening. Carbondale Arts and Carbondale Clay Center will host gallery openings and open-house events.

As we come together again, we must all remember that it is possible to enjoy the experience while keeping the community — and especially frontline workers in our restaurants and stores — safe at all times by following the public health and safety guidelines we’ve become accustomed to in the last year. We ask First Fridays attendees to do the following: please social distance inside and outside, please wear your face covering or mask when inside a business and ensure you are handwashing. If you are feeling sick or have been sick recently, please stay home to keep your community safe. Check the website to be familiar with the most up-to-date public health guidelines and continue to comply with any local ordinances. Lastly, we must remind the community that open containers are not permitted during First Fridays, just as before. We can have nice things, so let’s all play our part to keep the community safe and keep First Fridays on the calendar for the rest of the year.

We must also make a special thanks to the sponsors and partners of First Fridays: First Bank, Town of Carbondale, Carbondale Arts and Carbondale Creative District, and our strong business community that provides financial support to make this event happen. And let’s not forget a huge thank you to Thunder River Theatre, who became First Friday’s “virtual host” since April 2020. For general First Fridays info, contact the Chamber at 970-963-1890. Be sure to “like” First Fridays Carbondale on Facebook for updates. Lastly, mark your calendar: Family Block Party is moved to September 3, 2021.

How good it feels to say, after more than a year, see you at First Fridays!

Andrea Stewart is the Executive Director of Carbondale Chamber of Commerce and Carbondale Tourism

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