Young Professionals to kick off Friday Fest in Craig | CraigDailyPress.com

Young Professionals to kick off Friday Fest in Craig

Weekly summer gathering slated for Fridays, coinciding with new day for Farmers Market

Michael Neary

Yampa Valley Young Professionals is hosting a free community dinner from 5:30 to 9 p.m. on Friday in downtown Craig. Several members from the group's Action Committee (pictured) meets almost every week to go over various items. Pictured left to right is Noelle Leavitt Riley, Kirstie McPherson, Karli Bockelman, Zoe Sowers, Autumn Tatman and Ashly Shipman.

— When "Dinner on the Avenue" takes place at 5:30 p.m. this Friday, it will be the first of 13 events held each Friday known this summer as "Friday Fest."

The weekly events, designed to highlight downtown businesses and to create a host of activities for residents, used to be held on Thursdays — and called "Do It Downtown Thursday." The shift coincides with the movement of the Craig Farmers Market from Thursday to Friday this summer.

"We've worked together for several years," said Karen Brown, president of the Craig Downtown Business Association, the organization that coordinates Friday Fest. So, Brown explained, when the Farmers Market organizers expressed interest in changing its day to Friday, the DBA decided to make the switch, as well.

On Friday, the spotlight will be on the Yampa Valley Young Professionals, who are putting on what founding member Kirstie McPherson called "our big debut event." From 5:30 to 9 p.m., community members will be offered dinner, dancing, drinks and live music at Alice Pleasant Park. Dad's Cookhouse will be catering the event, and a cluster of other organizations are providing food and funds, as well.

The food and drinks are free — except for a cash beer garden, with proceeds helping fund the DBA.

"We're going to have picnic tables all the way down the front part of the sidewalk," McPherson said.

Recommended Stories For You

The dinner, McPherson said, gives the group a chance to reach out to the larger community.

"We want to broadcast that we are a very active group in the community," she said, noting that a biking group and other outdoor efforts may be on the horizon for the Young Professionals, now that the warmer weather has arrived.

"This is our first big event as Yampa Valley Young Pros for the community," added Noelle Leavitt Riley, a member of the Yampa Valley Young Professionals. "We've been meeting for the last six months, and, right now, we have 57 people on our email list, and 25 extremely active members."

As for the Friday Fest as a whole, Brown hopes the weekly events shine a light on local businesses and create a space for some vibrant activities.

"We'd like to highlight a restaurant each week," Brown said. She noted that organizers also wanted to plan some events each week, such as children's activities, and highlight nonprofit organizations and other area groups.

"We're trying to get the community involved and see that there are some great little businesses downtown, and support the Farmers Market and enjoy the town," she said.

Brown said a number of events planned for this summer. She mentioned line dances by area seniors in June, a Harry Potter theme in August and a spotlight on the school district on Aug. 26. She also said an "upcycle event" was slated for Aug. 19.

"It's where you make something out of something else, like a bench out of an old dresser," she said. She mentioned other activities, including an Independence Day celebration, as well.

Brown said the DBA is also working with artists to hone activities, and she said Colorado Northwestern Community College would be an active presence throughout the summer.

Brown said, too, that she'd like to see city council members and county commissioners on hand for Friday Fest events, possibly in booths to answer questions.

The Friday Fest gatherings, Brown added, are not just about downtown.

"We'd like to highlight small businesses that are in town but not downtown," she said. "They could come down and say, 'Hey, this is where we're located, and this is what we have to offer.'"