First Friday Returns With Food, Entertainment in Largo
This first Friday of September will kick off the recommencement of Largo’s locally renown First Friday street festival, taking place on First Avenue Southwest between Clearwater-Largo Road and Ridge Road and in front of O’Shy’s Irish Pub.
The beginning of September marks more than a close of the summer season and more tropical storm threats for Largo's locals.
This first Friday of September will kick off the recommencement of Largo’s locally renowned First Friday street festival, taking place on First Avenue Southwest between Clearwater-Largo Road and Ridge Road and in front of O’Shy’s Irish Tap House.
The event, which has been on hiatus since May due to variable, hot weather and a lack of local tenants, normally takes place on the first Friday of every month.
The Sept. 7 First Friday will take place from about 6 p.m. to about 11 and will revolve around an "end of summer" theme.
Organizers Kurt and Raelynn Hesser, new owners of O’Shy’s, have spent the past three weeks organizing the season opening First Friday. They say they expect about 300 people will attend throughout the evening.
“We’re doing it up,” said Raelynn Hesser, 60. “We’re very excited about it.”
About two dozen vendors will be in attendance, selling everything from cupcakes and other bakery items to barbecue, authentic Mexican food, Chinese food, smoothies, shaved ice, crafts, clothing, caricatures, home décor, hand-made jewelry and other items.
“It’s not just going to be a hamburger stand,” said Hesser. “We’re really trying to have a variety of food trucks and vendors.”
For children, they'll find a bounce house and a stilt walker who makes balloon animals to entertain them.
Friday evening's live entertainment lineup includes Noah Broe and The Groove Co., a local reggae-funk-rock group, and Cage O’Hanlon, a violinist and a traditional Irish singer.
Amy Malley, an independent consultant for PartyLight, a direct-selling business of candles and home accessories, is attending First Friday for the first time and will be selling various cash-and-carry items and candle holders at the event.
“I’m really looking forward to meeting a bunch of new people,” said Malley, 52, of Safety Harbor.
The Hessers say that not too many local business owners are familiar with the them yet, since they just became the new owners of O’Shy’s in May. They added that they plan to personally visit many in the near future so that they can introduce themselves and get the community together.
“We’re not here doing our own thing or else we wouldn’t be doing First Friday,” said Kurt Hesser, 56.
Jen Lantry, former owner of O’Shy’s and former organizer of the monthly First Friday events, says she’s given the Hessers advice on vendors and preparation work for the event. Otherwise, she’s not too involved in this Friday’s festival, though she says she will likely be in attendance.
“First Friday is very important to me,” said Lantry, who now lives in Hudson. “I don’t want to see it fail or not happen.”
She added that the Hessers have taken the reins and want to organize First Friday themselves.
“That’s why I sold it to them — because I felt they could enhance it in ways I could not do it; make it better,” said Lantry. “I’m hoping they’ll make it better.”
Making it better is what the Hessers say they do indeed intend to do. They say they plan to get other local business owners together and make First Friday a county-wide event.
“We’re trying to extend it — make it bigger,” said Raelynn Hesser, though she added that she wants to do so without interrupting local residents.
The Hessers say they still plan to keep to tradition and have each First Friday be based on a different theme. The German-Irish couple added that a possible plan for the October event includes a recreation of a beer ball, modeled after the German Oktoberfest.
“We have a lot of stuff in the works,” said Kurt Hesser.