WRJ is loaded with places to see and things to do. It's now on the Discovery Map in full color!

First Fridays in WRJ. What's all the fuss?

Submitted 3 months ago
Created by
Dave Celone

An invitation for YOU!

I keep running into people who tell me they've heard of First Friday nights in White River Junction, VT, but then in the next breath they ask me what it's all about. Among my close friends, I'm shocked to learn how many people have never been to a First Friday night celebration in WRJ. I mean, if you live anywhere in the Upper Valley, or in VT or NH for that matter, or maybe even further into the reaches of Maine and Massachusetts, First Fridays in WRJ are truly something to experience.

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First, let me tell you, YOU ARE INVITED! That's to say everyone is invited. It's a family-friendly evening in downtown White River Junction that's great fun for children and adults of all ages. I've seen old timers in wheelchairs whose faces light up as they wheel their way into a shop or gallery to be greeted by a friendly shop owner with cheese and crackers, or live local music that makes them feel young again.

Last year's discovery map had 28 WRJ businesses listed. Plenty more new spots have sprung up since then.

How to define First Friday? Think of an art walk on steroids. There's plenty of art to see, whether it be at Long River Gallery & Gifts, in the Zollikoffer Gallery in the Hotel Coolidge lobby, or around the corner at Steven Thomas Art & Antiquities. You'll also find plenty of art in the Tip Top building at Two Rivers Printmaking Studio, and also Ken Blaisdell's oil-on canvas paintings at Lampscapes. And did you know there are loads of artist studios all throughout the upper reaches of the Tip Top building whose doors are mostly open on First Friday nights? They're just waiting for you to walk in and marvel at what's on the walls and pedestals. And there's also the Barrette Center for the Arts at Northern Stage which always has an art show rotating through.

Then, let's talk about the music. First of all, it's local. And second of all, but just as importantly, it's amazing! You'll find local artists who've played all over the world, but who love to come home to WRJ for a fun First Friday run to play for us Upper Valley'ites. And, guess what, everything I've mentioned so far is free and wide open to you for your enjoyment!

Next, think about food and beverage tastings. The real beauty of a WRJ First Friday night is you'll never get the same thing twice. It might be a really fine artisanal wine at Scavenger Gallery next to the Hotel Coolidge, or perhaps a cool summer juice or smoothie tasting at JUEL.  Or, it might be a whole combination of all of the above in the rear parking lot behind the Coolidge with live music, food, juice tastings, artists wandering, and a fun interconnection between and among people having a wonderful time. 

The recent stage production at Northern Stage. There's always great theater happening in WRJ.

Now, as for being on "steroids," there's even a ping pong game that is usually going at Lampscapes, while another band will be playing right across the street at The Filling Station. Plus local musicians often rotate on through the evening at Big Fatty's, and there's always some special little thing, maybe a great-tasting cup of espresso brewing at Revolution, or a local cheese tasting at, well, you're just going to have to come to White River to sample all the fare there is to share. And the fare is music, food, beverages of all stripes, art, craft, even fine films that sometimes get screened in the Briggs Opera House while a great stage production is ongoing at Northern Stage. Oh, and lest I forget, always check out the Main Street Museum for whatever they may have going on from a poetry reading to an all-out dance party. One never knows what the MSM will be staging inside and also outside behind its lovely museum space down by the lovely and fast-flowing White River. Come have a look around.

Plan it right, and your First Friday night in WRJ will be the best you've ever had, and that's even before you stop for dinner at any of the truly delicious eateries that now grace downtown WRJ. Think delectable tacos or real San Diego-style burritos at Trail Break Taps & Tacos. Or sumptuous Turkish dining at Tuckerbox. Or how about savory meat or veggie pies at Piecemeal Pies? Want a white tablecloth sit-down dinner of the finest fare? Try Elixir. Or a slight step toward more relaxed dining is Thyme in the Tip Top building. I'm sure I'm omitting a slew of places, but grab a Discovery Map while you're in the Hotel Coolidge and see for yourself. At last check, there were 28 businesses, galleries, and restaurants that dotted the "White River Junction Arts & Shops District" on that map, but plenty more have popped up since it was printed almost a year ago. Oh, and did I mention the best beer anywhere? Try a tasting at River Roost, just down South Main across the parking lot from from Big Fatty's. You'll keep coming back for more. Mark is a master brewer who really takes pride in his craft and his product. You'll know why with just one sip.

And, last, but not least, I just have to let you in on two crazy secrets many locals know but so few others have tried. The first is C&S Pizza at 104 S. Main St, and it's nestled right in the heart of WRJ. This is not my thin-crust New Haven Italian style pizza of a pie, but let me tell you, a C&S pizza pie makes my mouth water just thinking about it. Give it a try and let me know what you think (in the comment section below, please). I'm betting you'll be beyond pleasantly surprised. They get their pizza just about right for a perfect delight. Who knew?!!  The second is Cafe Renee, which is brand new and is adjacent to the Hotel Coolidge lobby. Stop in there for your morning coffee and home-baked goods that are a real treat. They've just started serving lunch, too. I'm a fan!

Try C&S in WRJ for an amazingly good pizza pie! Who knew??!!!

Hope to see you wandering around WRJ on this upcoming First Friday which is set for September 7th, 2018. Most shops and galleries are open late from 5 - 8 pm. And, of course, restaurants and watering holes are open much later. Bands also play outdoors during summer months, so get ready (rain or shine) for a fine evening spent with with fine art, fine friends, and fine fare. Come on and join us, and you'll feel what it's like to be a part of a truly burgeoning art, craft, food, and music community just as it starts to hit its stride.

It'll make you feel like a kid again!

(You'll find updates on First Friday bands as they get posted on Facebook at @WRJctFirstFriday, and also at another FB page titled WRJ First Fridays. Visit these two spaces often for the latest FF music updates!)


Dave Celone writes for the dailyuv.com under the moniker Poetic Licence. Tune into his posts (for free!) by Clicking Here, or by visiting this link: https://dailyuv.us11.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=3b0a3ea19ca8d7b499b2203de&id=8d286dabb7 . Why not spread the word to your family & friends? It's easy. Share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or email by clicking on one of the buttons below. Thanks for reading!



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