‘First Fridays’ festival series launches May 7 in Wright City

The First Fridays on First Street event series in Wright City will offer a mix of activities, vendors and downtown businesses for visitors to enjoy on the first Friday of each month until September.

A series of monthly festivals on First Street are coming to Wright City, courtesy of a group of local business owners, citizens and elected officials.

The “First Fridays on First Street” festivals will take place the first Friday of each month from May to September on East North First Street, featuring family activities, food and vendors. The events are being organized by the Wright City Downtown Revitalization Committee, a recently formed group that aims to bring renewed attention and activity to the downtown district.

All of the events will be completely free, both for visitors and for vendors, said Ramiz Hakim, the chief organizer for the first event on May 7. The May festival will feature bounce houses, children’s activities, good food and craft vendors, Hakim said. He expects around 100 vendors could be present for the inaugural event.

Hakim said the First Friday festivals are intended to change how people think about the Wright City community, both as residents and as visitors.

“We have millions of dollars that drive right through Wright City ... we want to capture some of that, and be a good destination for people,” Hakim said. “The end goal is to get us a vibrant downtown, where’s there’s business, where there’s people enjoying the unique things in Wright City.”

As a special feature of the May festival, Hakim said a number of Hispanic food and activity vendors plan to attend as part of Cinco de Mayo celebrations that week. 

The monthly festival series is being organized entirely by volunteers, and is being offered free of charge for all involved in order to encourage participation and build momentum, Hakim said. In future years, the events could be used to generate revenue for downtown beautification projects, but for now Hakim said the revitalization committee isn’t fundraising, it’s “friendraising.”

Kelly Hill, the president of the downtown revitalization committee, said the First Friday festivals are an early step toward a long-term goal of bringing more activity to, and making improvements in, Wright City’s downtown.

“Our whole goal through this group is to come up with a plan on how to clean up our downtown area. That doesn’t just mean beautification, it means asking are there any roads that need repair, any sidewalks that need repairs, storm sewers that need work because they’re forever-old,” Hill commented.

She said each month’s festival is going to be coordinated by a different team, and will have different themes for special activities to accompany the festivals’ vendors and food.

Assuming the festival series is an ongoing success, Hill said the revitalization committee will eventually discuss how to use the festivals to raise money for improving the downtown area. Any money raised will be used to seek out grant funding for community revitalization, which usually requires local matching funds, Hill explained.

“We know that when we qualify for a grant, that businesses are going to have to put up a portion of the money as well,” said Hill, who runs the Shelter Insurance agency downtown. “So say a grant is for a $50,000 project, downtown businesses might have to come up with $25,000.”

Hill said the downtown revitalization group has been an achievement in bringing together local businesses, government and private citizens. Even local students have gotten involved, offering their time as volunteers and their ideas for events.

“They are a ton of fun. They love the experience of learning how these kinds of things work, and they’ve come up with a ton of great ideas that we’re trying to incorporate into events and advertising,” Hill commented about the students.

Anyone who is interested in volunteering for the festivals or the downtown revitalization committee can contact Hill’s office at 636-745-2514.


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