Ideas floated to block off streets to vehicles during monthly event

by: TIMES PHOTO: JOHN LARIVIERE - Members of the Mandala neo-tribal belly dance troupe perform outside Beaverton Florist during the downtown Beaverton First Friday event.Many figure massage or aromatherapy might relieve their stress and anxiety, but are inhibited by a lack of familiarity or procrastination in setting an appointment. The same goes for ballroom dance lessons. And how about the old Masonic Lodge or that funky little shop you’ve driven by with curiosity a thousand times but never set foot inside?

A growing number of citizens and merchants are letting First Friday be their guide to downtown Beaverton.

“Personally, I love it, because you get to know the community,” said Debra Lord, owner of Beaverton Healing Center at 4590 S.W. Watson Ave., last Friday of the monthly, spring-through-fall event. “The most common phrase I hear when people wander in is, ‘Ah, I had no idea you were here.’ This gives people in the community a chance to know we’re here.”

During the evening celebration, held from 5 to 8 p.m. on the first Friday of each month, a growing number of businesses are staying open past their normal hours, offering free samples and services and discounts to those who choose to welcome the weekend with an exploration of downtown Beaverton. Now in its second year, First Friday has nearly 40 participating businesses on board.

Hosted by the Beaverton Masonic Lodge No. 100 at Watson Avenue and Second Street, the second First Friday of the 2013 season featured live music performances, book signings from local authors, dance lessons, food samples, art demonstrations and even belly dancing — all on a sunny spring TIMES PHOTO: JOHN LARIVIERE - Musician Benjamin Bogosian entertains patrons at Art On Broadway with the melodic tones of a hang, a Swiss instrument producing tones similar to the steelpan of Trinidad.

Good moves

Mandala, a six-member, tribal-style belly dance troupe from Portland, mesmerized a small crowd outside Beaverton Florist on the opposite corner from the lodge. Among the hypnotic movements, one dancer balanced a samurai sword on her hip to the delight of onlookers, including a pair of young men traveling through the area who decided to check out Beaverton.

“Those belly dancers are pretty sexy,” said Robert, who read about First Friday while riding on the MAX train with his friend, also called Max. “That got our attention right away.”

They said they’d probably take in a tour of the Masonic Lodge, where artists Diane Marks-Bestor and Susan Schenk demonstrated their painting techniques in the lobby.

Cornelius resident Crystal Elam said she’s glad she and her companion, Zem Guthrie, decided to venture east to see what’s brewing in Beaverton.

“It seemed like a fun thing to do on a Friday night,” Elam added, noting the advantage of not having to go all the way into Portland. “It’s nice we don’t have to drive so far.”

Around the corner at the Arthur Murray Dance Studio, administrator Adam Noar and instructor Shannon Wills welcomed first-time visitors to try a free 30-minute dance lesson.

“I think it’s great,” Noar said of First Friday. “It ties people together by pulling them back to the original aspect of downtown — before people started building shopping malls.”

Wills said First Friday is a great opportunity for the studio as well as fledgling dancers.

“It allows us an opportunity to talk to people,” she said, noting the thrill of students picking up a new step. “Everyone learns differently, but when you see how it clicks in their body, you see it in their face.”by: TIMES PHOTO: JOHN LARIVIERE - Artist Diane Mark-Bestor works on the foundation of a portrait in the Beaverton Masonic Lodge as Janet Gray looks on during First Friday festivities in downtown Beaverton.

On Broadway

Over on Broadway Street, the seven-piece band Riverside Northwest kept the energy flowing with a selection of oldies, including the 1960s flower-power anthem, “Get Together.”

Across the street, on the sidewalk outside Beaverton Sub Station, 12-year-old Zac Rodriguez sold no fewer than 10 copies of “Escaped,” his true-life chronicle of fleeing an abusive father in the Hawaiian islands with his mom Lucy, brother Josiah, and sister Adinda.

“It’s good for his social skills, and he gets to connect with other authors,” Lucy Rodriguez said. “It’s fun for him.”

Camelia Moss, owner of the tiny but fascinating Camelia’s Candles at 4580 S.W. Watson Ave., would like to see First Friday planners experiment with blocking off different streets to create a street-fair ambience.

“If we’d block off maybe two blocks, we could move more people around and bring people to different locations,” she TIMES PHOTOS: JOHN LARIVIERE - Members of The Dairyville Players stroll down First Street singing chants from their current production of 'The Mikado,' opening June 21 in the Alpenrose Opera House.

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