2nd Fridays event sees huge crowd, perfect weather

Visitors check out classic cars at the first 2nd Friday event of the summer Friday evening in Cullman. (Nick Griffin for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Cullman’s popular summertime street party, 2nd Fridays, is back for 2019, and June’s event kicked things off with a big crowd on a near-perfect night Friday. The series is a joint effort between the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce and Cullman Parks, Recreation, and Sports Tourism, bringing together downtown merchants, the Festhalle Farmers’ Market, entertainers, car collectors and others on the second Friday of each month from June through September. Along First Avenue through the Warehouse District, businesses stay open late, a classic and custom car show is put on, farmers sell their produce at the Festhalle, and crafters and artists set up shop in “Artists’ Alley.” There are choices from eateries and food trucks/trailers up and down the street and performers play live music at various locations around the district.

Friday night’s lineup of activities featured a variety of things for participants to enjoy including: the Buffalo Wild Wings Kids’ Zone, an antique and classic car cruise-in, Artists’ Alley with artists, and chamber member pop-up shops, Festhalle Farmers Market, Depot Park- Youth Night in the Park, a food demonstration, a watermelon spittin’ contest, food trucks and live music from – Johnathan East, Ty Gracey Music and Blind The Sky.

The Chamber’s Head of Member Services, Magan Bartlett, talked about how 2nd Fridays got started and the role it fills for City Parks and Rec and the Chamber during the year.

“The Chamber started this event a few years ago and partnered with Cullman City Parks and Recreation and it’s grown each year. It keeps getting bigger and bigger,” said Bartlett. “We did this to help our retailers in the area, to give back to them and bring the people here so they can shop in the stores. We get asked all the time if we can extend this a few months and we want to, and we want our businesses, but this fills the gap between Strawberry Festival and Oktoberfest that City Parks and Rec does, so it’s a really nice filler.”

Cullman Parks, Recreation and Sports Tourism Executive Director Nathan Anderson touched on how his department got involved in the event and says it has been a beneficial team-up for both parks and rec and the community.

“I believe this is our fourth season partnered with the Chamber on this event,” Anderson said. “We started out with a 1st Friday open farmers’ market night, and the chamber had their 2nd Fridays going and we decided to partner up and join forces and it’s been a great thing for our community and great for us.”

This year’s event landed on a particularly cool night in June and the weather conditions made it even easier for crowds to make their way into downtown Cullman.

“This event is for the merchants and the retailers, but it’s also for the community. We get visitors from all over with our cruise-in cars. One month we had over 300, so this month with the good weather in June I’m hoping we will break that record,” Bartlett Smiled. “This year the Cullman Downtown Merchants Association sponsored the area across (U.S. Highway) 278, so that just helps grow the footprint and we’re excited about that. We’ve got the cruise-in cars, live music, something for every age.”

There is a special event planned in Depot Park for each month’s event, and Friday night, youth groups from local churches all over town filled the park to play games and fellowship with one another. The park will feature a new theme each month as the event progresses through the summer.

“We’ve expanded into Depot Park for all four months this year. For June we tapped into Chamber members at our churches and asked their youth groups to participate and just have some fun in the park,” Bartlett said. “In July we’ll have Ladies’ Night in the park, for August we’ll have our ‘Woof Local’ events, so get your furry friend and come for the 1-Mile Family Fun Dog Walk and the Furry 5K, and then we’ll wrap it up with a cornhole tournament with Alabama Cornhole in September. We’re just really excited to be here and get going.”

Anderson has seen this event grow month after month, year after year but even he is still impressed to see how large the Friday night summer gatherings have become.

“At its inception, this was a small gathering in downtown Cullman, and now we’re talking about a half-mile stretch spanning over eight blocks now. That’s just incredible,” Anderson said. “Thousands of people come out from all over to shop in our stores, eat in our restaurants, enjoying the festivities and enjoying hanging out with each other.”

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Nick Griffin