Friday Night Live … and growing

Friday Night Live is going strong.
The summertime festival in downtown Rutland has established itself as a must-attend event. Originally conceived as a grassroots desire for a community event, made flesh by the Creative Economy and taken over by the Downtown Rutland Partnership, FNL is now as much a part of summer in Rutland as the ice cream truck driving through the neighborhood.
At times, it has bordered on being too successful for its own good, along the lines of Yogi Berra’s “Nobody goes there anymore; it’s too crowded.”
But for families, it offers a variety of kids’ performers and events not available elsewhere in the county; for teens it has become a safe gathering place; for adults it is both a spot to bump into friends and neighbors and a site for really high-quality entertainment.
And it’s all free.
To expand on a couple of those points … it is safe. Yes, there have been a couple of arrests for drunken behavior. With 2,000 or so people a night, half a dozen times each summer for the past four years, you’re going to have some problems. But the police have responded well to the perception by some that there is an element of danger, and there are now uniformed officers on foot, walking up and down Center Street throughout the evening. It’s certainly more family-friendly than, say, the bleacher seats at a professional sporting event.
And it’s hard to overstate the importance of FNL for families. Clearly there’s a void in the community when every juggler, magician and storyteller on the street gets an overflow audience of kids, parents and grandparents.
The Creative Economy is again coming to the rescue, with the Wonderfeet children’s museum opening in an empty storefront from 6 to 8 p.m. during Friday Night Live and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in conjunction with the Saturday farmers’ market. Having spent two weeks with a series of “Energy in Motion” activities, the volunteer organizers are moving on to “Farm to Fit” for the next two weeks and finishing with a “Trashformers” exhibit the last two weeks, promising to help kids “transform trash into art and learn about the environment.”
The storefront is a barebones attempt at a kids’ museum in Rutland; a way for organizers to broach the idea to the public at little cost and get contacts and feedback about what people would like to see … plus possible new sources of volunteer energy from visitors who like what they see and who would like to contribute time to the effort. It’s also free to visit.
For more, see http://www.wonderfeetkidsmuseum.org
http://www.rutlanddowntown.com/events-entertainment/friday-night-live/

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