New monthly event expected to grow with streetscape improvements
by: jonathan house, Teresa Fox laughs as her family passes an onlooker with a camera while handing out flyers for their business, Costume Avenue, during Beaverton First Friday.

Strolling along Southwest Broadway Street on Friday evening, June 1, Aloha resident Randi Fulton discovered there's more to Beaverton's business district than what she typically notices while driving downtown on the way to somewhere else.

'I thought I'd come and see what this is like,' Randi Fulton said. 'I'm seeing these little shops I didn't know existed.'

Her young-adult daughters, Jennifer and Cindy, agreed.

'I've never really stopped and looked,' Cindy Fulton admitted.

'I'm seeing these little shops I normally just buzz by (in the car),' Jennifer said.

It's exactly these little discoveries that merchants and downtown business leaders hope will become commonplace with Beaverton First Friday. The second installment of the newly launched monthly event attracted a modest, yet enthused, stream of visitors Friday evening to shops, restaurants and galleries along Broadway Street as well as Watson, First and Second avenues.

More than 20 downtown businesses have extended their hours of operation for the event, while offering special promotions and discounts on the first Friday of every month from May 4 through Oct. 5. While the streets remain open to vehicular traffic, the evening sidewalks come alive with historic displays, art demonstrations, tea tastings and live music.

Cool weather and the threat of rain likely kept crowds down this past Friday, but that didn't dampen the spirit and energy of the Swingset Quartet, an a capella group from Vancouver, Wash., that serenaded evening shoppers and strollers along Broadway. Paul Roder, an active member of the Beaverton Downtown Association, invited the group to lend its voices to the second First Friday.

'He didn't say where to start or where to finish. He just asked us to move along and sing,' said quartet member Camille Lunt, a Vancouver resident.

She and her red and black-clad bandmates - Mindi Brizendine of Beaverton, and Portlanders Terri Parente and Von Roberts - plan to bring the quartet's impeccable jazz and swing vocalizations back to First Friday in September.

'We enjoy supporting the arts,' Brizendine said, 'and anything that allows us to perform and share music.'

At the Beaverton History Center on Broadway, Judy and Daniel Donovan kept the area's heritage alive and well by donning period clothes from the late 19th century to help lure passersby into the museum and arts cooperative.

'We like to dress up and promote history,' said Judy Donovan, whose family tree bears such recognizable Beaverton names as Denney and Fanno. 'I sometimes wear my great-grandmother's clothes.'

Donovan was one of several First Friday attendees who suggested closing the featured streets off to traffic would enhance the new event's identity and sense of festivity.

'Why don't we block off Hall and Watson and start something special?' she asked. 'That would be a good idea.'

Among the novel ideas already in motion is the temporary conversion of the Beaverton Sub Station's dining room into 'The Other Gallery.' As owner Chuck Wilson and his employees assembled sandwiches on one side of the business, artists Lana Nelson and Denise McDonald displayed, respectively, their oil paintings and pastel etchings on the barn-wooded walls of the next room.

'We thought we'd be the icebreakers for the First Fridays,' said Nelson, a four-decade Beaverton resident who volunteers at the Beaverton History Center and Art on Broadway. 'I think it's a wonderful idea, especially for artists. It's important to have programs that go in the direction of revitalizing downtown.'

McDonald, who's called Beaverton home for 45 years, agreed First Friday is a positive step in the city's plans to re-imagine downtown as a gathering place and lively community center.

'It's a good thing,' she said, noting that the Beaverton Farmers Market on Saturdays doesn't include artist displays. 'It brings people out to see things they didn't know existed. People have fun. There are a lot of empty spaces (downtown), so it's good to have other activities going on.'

Jolanda Starke, a Sexton Mountain resident, brought her 8-year-old son, Bronsson, out Friday to take in local art and explore downtown shops she doesn't get to very often.

'I kind of browse and see what there is to look at,' she said. 'But it doesn't mean I won't shop.'

A regular at the similarly themed Third Thursday street fairs in Portland, Starke noted that Beaverton First Friday will likely gain popularity when even more shops choose to stay open until 8 p.m. or so during the events.

'I see lots of potential, but I expect to see more doors open,' she said.

Bronsson, a student at Hiteon Elementary School, had fewer reservations about the event.

'I like First Friday because I get to stay out late,' he said.

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