GOSHEN — With the winter’s “Fire and Ice” festival done and spring’s bicycle races finished, the Maple City has another two-day First Friday event coming up for the summer.
The August event will be a sand volleyball tournament, “bringing back something Goshen used to do 20 years ago,” said Gina Leichty, head of Downtown Goshen Inc., the nonprofit downtown group that puts on First Friday events each month.
The nostalgic event comes on the heels of the popular July cruising event, which resurrected a long-gone Goshen tradition when Don Riegsecker started it a few years ago.
It will also mean this year will see a two-day event every quarter for First Fridays, with the November art-themed First Friday also running into two days.
Those long events aren’t universally loved, especially this month’s bike race. Jeff Hall said he’s heard grumbling from several other downtown businesses. The proprietor of John Hall’s Hardware was moderate in his tone, but said having the bike course remain up on Saturday, May 4, “actually made it a little worse for us.” Some customers gave up trying to find parking and went elsewhere, Hall said.
“Some of the events are just becoming, they’re growing on their own,” Leichty said. The volleyball tournament will go for two days, in part, to make the effort worth it. “We’re trucking in tons of sand to put on Main Street,” she said.
First Fridays organizers are working with the Goshen Parks Department to host a tournament featuring eight recreational teams of six members each and eight competitive teams of four members each for August, she said. There will also be children’s events.
The growth of things like this month’s bicycle tournament have increased the city’s prestige, but they also cause problems. “As far as spectators and riders it continues to be one of Goshen’s and the region’s most popular events,” Leichty said. “Goshen has one of the premier biking events in the Midwest,” she said.
It takes a lot of work to put on, though, and the course causes disruptions for downtown. Downtown Goshen, Inc. has surveyed downtown merchants, and Leichty said, “for some people it’s a really great event, for others it wasn’t as good, but I think that’s true for any First Friday.”
She said, “We do, next year, however, want to make some modifications to make it easier to navigate during the day.”
Hall said while the First Fridays are good for downtown business, that comes with a price. “There’s pros and cons to it every time,” he said. First Friday events typically benefit food establishments more than others, Hall said.
“I’m all about helping downtown. We’ve got a good thing going,” he said. Still, it would be nice to see people remain able to access the downtown area.
Leichty said,“We’re not sure yet what we’ll do next year. We’re still getting feedback with how that went over with the merchants and the public and the riders.”