ON THE SCENE

Downtown street party kicks football season into high gear


Gainesville's Blues-O-Matics will open the United Downtown street party series on Friday with a performance from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Bo Diddley Community Plaza. Tom Shed, as the night's performer in the “Free Fridays” concert series, will then appear from 8 to 10 p.m. (File photo)

Published: Thursday, September 1, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 5:41 p.m.

The kickoff event of the new United Downtown street party on Friday will offer a heaping dose of blues from the Blues-O-Matics as it incorporates the City of Gainesville's Let's Go Downtown “Free Fridays” Concert Series and introduces children's events, special activities and a fundraising beer truck to raise money for the United Way.

Facts

Upcoming United Downtown events

Friday: Blues-O-Matics, 5:30-7 p.m.
Sept 9: Root Redemption Band, 5:30–7 p.m.
Sept 16: Ricky Kendall & Friends, 5:30–7 p.m.
Sept 30: 3rd Stone, 5:30–7 p.m.
Nov 4: P.K. Yonge Bluegrass Band, 1:30–2:30 p.m.; Mr. Ainsworth, 3:30-5:30 p.m.
Nov 18: The Righteous Kind, 5:30–7 p.m.; John McMillan, 8-10 p.m.
Nov 25: Open (TBA), 5:30–7 p.m.; 3rd Stone, 8-10 p.m.

From 5:30 to 10 p.m. Friday, United Downtown will feature an O2B Kids Corner with children's activities, visiting alligators from the Santa Fe Teaching Zoo, vendor booths representing downtown restaurants, specials from area retail stores and a beer truck on hand selling Miller beer products.

Organized by the United Way of North Central Florida to offer a family friendly, street party event on the Friday night before each Gator home football game, the event will have United Downtown musical acts performing from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on four Fridays in September while the city's “Free Fridays” concerts continue. That means, in tonight's case, that the Alachua County-based Blues-O-Matics will perform on the Bo Diddley plaza stage before this week's “Free Fridays” performer, Tom Shed, will perform from 8 to 10 p.m.



Since there are no home games from the Gators in October, United Downtown events are planned from Friday through Sept. 16 and again on Sept. 30 before taking the month of October off before returning on Nov. 4, 18 and 25.

In October, when the “Free Fridays” Concert Series will have ended for the year, United Downtown will feature musical performers from 5:30 to 7 p.m. as well as from 8 to 10 p.m. on Fridays.

“We picked the home-game schedule so that we could not only participate with local folks but so we could get our out-of-town guests into our stores downtown and have something to do while they're in town as well,” says Dana Napier, vice president of communications with the United Way of North Central Florida.

The United Downtown events will be held along Southeast First Street, between University Avenue to the north and Southeast Second Place to the south.

The event boundaries will incorporate the Bo Diddley Community Plaza, where the concerts will be held and the beer truck will be located, along with the area in front of the Hippodrome where the O2B Kids Corner, with face painting, a bounce house and other activities, will be held.

Napier says that since the events mark the first time that beer sales will be incorporated in a downtown event, care is being taken to carefully mark the boundaries of the event as well as to ensure that all who purchase beer are of age and do so according to guidelines.

An ID booth will be set up near Harry's at Southeast First Avenue, where customers will have their IDs checked and received special wristbands allowing them to purchase beer. They can then purchase tickets ranging from $3 for a Miller Lite or Coors Lite to $4 for a Blue Moon, which will be dispensed in specially marked containers that will be allowed only in the event area.

“We do have a lot of conditions in place so that we can really make sure it's a successful and safe event for everyone,” Napier says. “There will be defined boundaries of where people are allowed to enjoy their beverage, and those will be well marked and easy to see.”

Contact Entertainment Editor Bill Dean at 374-5039 or at bill.dean@gvillesun.com.

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