By AMANDA GRAY
THE GOSHEN NEWS
Expect a few changes to First Fridays this coming year, according to Downtown Goshen Inc. Director Gina Leichty.
Leichty spoke to downtown Goshen business owners at a breakfast meeting Thursday at Rachel’s Bread. The meeting was to give highlights on changes for the next year with First Fridays and Downtown Goshen Inc.
“Downtown Goshen is a unique place,” Leichty told business owners. “You don’t have to go far to see it’s a really special place.”
Leichty said changes coming to the program are meant to help business owners more. One such change is First Fridays membership.
In the past, business owners would join First Fridays and needed to participate every month. Now, Leichty said, participation is not required to join the membership, which will now be known as the Downtown Goshen Association.
“We recognized over time that (participation every month) isn’t feasible for all businesses,” Leichty said.
Criteria to join the association is simple: businesses must be located in the downtown business district, she said. Joining costs $200.
“We feel $200 a year is the cheapest advertising you’re going to get,” Leichty said at the meeting.
Some First Friday programming will change, too, according to First Fridays coordinator Katrina Maust. From small changes to where certain entertainment areas are located to large changes to the First Fridays calendar, 2013 will be a fresh year for First Fridays.
Big programming changes include the possibility of a restaurant week in February celebrating “Goshen is for Lovers,” Science Friday for March’s First Friday event, Green Day in April, a Sweet Summer Kick-Off in June and “Sand Blast” in August — a sand volleyball tournament held in downtown.
“We have lots of authorization and plans to be approved, but first, we’re starting with you,” Maust said to business owners.
Leichty was excited about the changes to First Fridays.
“We want to drive activity into local businesses as much as possible... When we first started First Fridays, we realized that free entertainment is a great way to draw a crowd,” Leichty said. “Now our major emphasis will be the business promotions, trying to get people circling downtown and to get your stores as the source of entertainment.”
Leichty said the food vendor area will stay on the south side of the Elkhart County Courthouse. Sponsors and food vendors will be there from April to October for First Fridays.
“We need to raise anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000 for each event — we need lots of sponsorship dollars to make that happen,” Leichty said.
Leichty also addressed non-profit efforts not located in downtown. In the past, there has been a blanket policy to say no to any non-profits wanting to come to First Fridays and sell items on sidewalks — mostly to protect business interest for downtown stores.
“We’re now asking business owners to allow them to set up inside a store,” Leichty said. “We’re asking businesses to not allow people (other than their own business) to set up on sidewalks.”
This is just for non-profits that wish to sell items. If a non-profit just wants to come and pass out information, then they can get a $25 permit and be in a designated location. Also, Leichty reminded owners that they should notify First Friday organizers if they are setting things up on the sidewalk or selling food outdoors.
“The (Goshen Board of Public Works and Safety) has asked First Fridays and Downtown Goshen Inc. to be the single conduit so they aren’t getting 50 requests for closures,” Leichty said.
For more information on Downtown Goshen Inc. or First Fridays, visit www.cityonthego.org. The December First Fridays event, “Hometown Holiday,” will be Dec. 7.