BY LINDSAY TESSIER
Downtown Guelph has been staying up late once a month thanks to an event called Fourth Fridays.
The aptly named event takes place on the fourth Friday of every month to encourage residents to come together and celebrate the creativity and community spirit of downtown Guelph.
Downtown businesses and outdoor spaces become venues for the night, hosting art exhibits, musical performances and family-friendly activities. Some stores stay open for late night shopping and restaurants and cafes offer food and drink specials.
The most recent Fourth Friday took place on Jan. 25. The Downtown Guelph Business Association (DGBA) kicked off the night with Synchro Skate at the Market Square rink. The event proved popular, with many braving the cold to lace up their skates.
Members of the Guelph Gryphons varsity figure skating team performed a synchronized skating routine on the rink at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. The team joined the public for a fun skate between demonstrations.
Sam Jewell, events co-ordinator for the DGBA, said the Fourth Fridays initiative has been beneficial for many downtown businesses.
“The businesses that have stuck with it, and every month they’ve stayed open late, have definitely seen positive results from it,” she said.
“The cafes and restaurants in downtown Guelph do very well. That’s definitely a success story.”
Jewell said the event shows the public that downtown Guelph is accessible and fun. She added that one of the joys of the event is getting to wander from venue to venue and enjoy the atmosphere.
“You can walk around. You don’t have to park right outside where you need to go, you can look around and it’s a really nice experience.”
Across the street at 10 Carden St. there was a body painting demonstration by artist Tania Crook and model Danae Wallace.
“I like the initiative,” said Crook, who makes a living as a professional body painter, doing everything from face painting for children’s events to art projects for magazines and special events.
“The way this initiative pairs you up with businesses and with particular events, gives a business a chance to see the value in having artists. Especially for me where I’m a bit of an unusual artist, it’s kind of nice to be able to have that.”
The night’s events included free admission to the Guelph Civic Museum and to the exhibit opening of Making our Mark: Guelph’s Connection to the American Civil War.
Civil War re-enactors helped to bring the era to life, sharing stories and facts about the time period with visitors. Food that the soldiers would have eaten on the battlefield such as hard tack, beef jerky and broth were available for visitors to try.
Host and guest curator Alex Hrienko-Chilcott gave a talk about the exhibit and the numerous connections between Guelph and this American war.
Hrienko-Chilcott said she believes Fourth Fridays encourages people to check out the museum.
“It’s always a hit,” she said. “We had the skateboarding exhibit opening last Fourth Friday and a lot of young people came out which was great.”
Other events on Friday night included a record release party at Ed Video, a showing of abstract landscape paintings at Red Brick Cafe, and the grand opening of the new home of Nan Hogg’s Art Workshops and Pablo’s World of Cartoons.
Past events have included yarn bombing trees in the downtown core, spoken word poetry performances, graffiti demonstrations, live music, disco ice skating complete with a live disco band, art exhibits, ice sculptures and wine tastings.
Fourth Friday events occur all over downtown Guelph, so there is no one place to go. For more information check out the Fourth Fridays website: http://fourthfridaysguelph.ca.