Thursdays on First: A successful season despite challenges

August 30, 2018

There’s always something bittersweet about these last weeks of summer in Minnesota, never more so than when we get to the final Thursdays on First and Third of the year.

Tomorrow’s Thursdays on First, the popular street fair held each week in downtown Rochester, will be the last one for 2018. This has been a challenging season in many ways, with enough street construction and parking issues to discourage easy access to downtown. Then we have to take into account the weather woes that canceled one day entirely and shortened a couple of others.

Despite all that, attendance this year has averaged about 18,500 on a weekly basis, according to Bill Fay, events coordinator for the Rochester Downtown Alliance. That puts Thursdays on First 2018 right in the ballpark of recent years. The highest turnout this year was 23,000 one week, while rain and threatening weather has curtailed attendance on a couple of other weeks.

Given that level of popularity, is there any reason not to continue Thursdays on First for a couple of weeks past Labor Day?

“It’s something we’ve heard, and I don’t think we’ll ever stop exploring it,” Fay said. However, he added, once school is back in session and fall sports start up, everyone’s calendar gets much busier. Plus, he said, vendors start looking at indoor events in the fall.

Still, we’d encourage Fay and the RDA to keep exploring the possibility. Even a down-sized Thursdays on First for the nice-weather weeks of early September might be worth the effort. It is, after all, a long time until next summer.

Meanwhile, some numbers regarding Thursdays on First 2018:

• 13 weeks scheduled (June 7 through August 30); 12 weeks held (there was one complete rainout).

• 78 bands and artists were scheduled to perform

• 165 vendors were booked for the season

• At least 70 volunteers worked on the event each week

• Total attendance for this summer will be about 223,000

No matter how you look at it, Thursdays on First and Third is an amazing success story. It’s worth the thousands of hours of planning and effort put into the event by the RDA and the city’s music department.

By the way, Thursday’s forecast calls for bright sunshine with a high of 75 — perfect weather for the final Thursdays on First of the summer. See you there.

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