Town leaders expected a crowd to watch live music downtown this summer, but no one figured that so many people would show up.
The Friday Night on White monthly concert series, which began in April and wraps up this month, drew an average of 7,000 to 8,000 people, said Lisa Hayes, Wake Forest’s downtown development director.
“I knew it was going to be big, but I had no idea,” she said.
The concerts took place the second Friday of the month and coincided with Art After Hours, a downtown event in which restaurants and art galleries offer special deals. Organizers closed South White Street to traffic and allowed residents to explore businesses while listening to music, eating food and drinking craft beer.
Hayes said the concerts were so successful, the town has already scheduled another round next summer.
She said she thinks the series was so popular because many Wake Forest residents were already interested in outdoor concerts – they had just been going out of town to attend them.
“People in Wake Forest have been traveling into Raleigh for a long time to listen to music, and so it was nice for them to have something here,” she said.
Back Alley Coffee Roasters owner, and Friday Night on White sponsor,
Tracy McKenzie, owner of Back Alley Coffee Roasters and a Friday Night on White sponsor, said the influx of people gave his Brooks Street business a chance to serve samples, including an iced coffee beverage infused with hops.
“In general, people heard about (Back Alley) and came back for the hopped coffee,” he said.
When McKenzie and his employees set up their sampling station during the first concert in April, they were concerned that only a few hundred people would show up because it was a cloudy and chilly day. But they were surprised when thousands of people streamed onto the street to enjoy the evening.
“It’s done nothing but gain steam, and the city and White Street have streamlined the process to get tickets to get in and get beer,” he said. “So I think it’s been a wonderful community event.”
The 2017 Friday Night on White concert series will get underway Friday, April 21. Hayes expects the series will be as successful as this year’s events.
“We think we’ve got a good formula here,” Hayes said. “We’re excited for next year.”
Chris Cioffi: 919-829-4802, @ReporterCioffi