June marks the one-year anniversary of First Weekends in Plattsburgh, a grassroots community group formed for the purpose of bringing people to Plattsburgh’s historic downtown business district, and appreciation of the ‘Burgh’s burgeoning art scene.
After starting from scratch a year ago, First Weekends more than just survived their freshman year. They were able to lay a significant footprint on downtown streets. Through working with local volunteers, arts organizations, artists and musicians, Plattsburgh city government, other community groups like Plattsburgh Renewal, Cardinal PR, and downtown businesses, First Weekends has started a movement that is in the process of invigorating downtown. Rather than rest on their successes, First Weekends is gearing up for a summer offensive that will build on their successes and continue to highlight the arts and businesses downtown.
First Weekends’ Vice President Leigh Carter-Simonette was intentionally coy about an announcement. President Tim McCormick is scheduled to make during the upcoming June First Weekend. Carter-Simonette says McCormick will be making an announcement during the set break of the Blind Owl Band show on Saturday June 7 about First Weekends’ plans for the upcoming summer.
Possibly the most visually noticeable aspect of First Weekends, and one that required the most cooperation between the group and two consecutive city councils, is the closure of certain downtown streets for pedestrian events. This has led some to speculate that their goal is to emulate Burlington’s Church Street, the pedestrian thoroughfare that slices that city’s downtown and has become a haven for street musicians, performers, and artists. To Carter-Simonette, nothing could be farther from their plan.
“I want to keep Plattsburgh Plattsburgh, I don’t want to compare it to Church Street,” she said. “Our first year this community came together. There were all these people and businesses coming together to show support for Plattsburgh. I don’t think that’s the same situation as on Church Street. That’s something to be extra proud of for Plattsburgh.”
Along with invaluable community and volunteer support, Carter-Simonette points to the good working relationship they have had with successive city councils, and successive mayors. And now the feeling downtown, she says, is becoming something palpable.
“It’s just great to see downtown…there is something special in the air. There is something different going on, and you can feel it,” she said.
First weekends started as many organizations do, with a few people asking how they can make a difference for positive change. Carter-Simonette and downtown businessman Colin Read were planning on starting an evening Rotary Club. When interest in that project stalled, they teamed up with future First Weekends’ president Tim McCormick, who wanted to branch out from Adirondack Young Professionals. They teamed with the North Country Cultural Center for the Arts, who were working on a First Fridays’ art project, and after bringing in several other essential people, First Weekends was born. With no budget and with most of their group having little experience in organizing an endeavor like First Weekends, Carter-Simonette says that their biggest hurdle was just learning on the run all the things that they needed to do behind the scenes, just to bring their vision to life.
While the core group of First Weekend volunteers has remained fairly intact, they are always looking for new members and people willing to sit on various committees. People interested in helping First Weekends’ second year be as successful as their first, or even more, can contact the group through their Facebook page First Weekends in Plattsburgh.