Downtown Grafton Puts Its Mark On "First Friday"

Manos Theatre in Downtown Grafton

We continue our coverage of the Turn this Town Around Project. The towns of Grafton and Matewan are turning themselves around through a special collaborative project between West Virginia Public Broadcasting, West Virginia Focus magazine and the West Virginia Community Development Hub. 

The citizens of Grafton will be gathering downtown this evening for “First Friday”– an initiative that’s grown out of the Turn This Town Around project. The goal is to promote downtown Grafton by hosting special events and activities and extending downtown business hours on the first Friday of every month.

If you travel to downtown Grafton this evening, you’ll be able to catch a comedy troupe at the Manos Theatre, shop at the farmer’s market, eat your fill at the Elks’ shrimp feed, stop by open houses at numerous shops, get your picture taken and participate in a number of activities.

And if you’re a teacher, the International Mother’s Day Shrine is hosting a Teachers Appreciation Tea – with special treats – including 15 minute massages, Mary Kay Satin Hands treatment, pottery painting, prizes, school supply give-aways, live music, and – of course – tea.   

International Mothers Day Shrine Sign promotes Teacher Appreciation Tea as part of September 5th First Friday activities

Credit Sarah Lowther Hensley

Other cities and towns have experimented with similar monthly events and the idea seems to have some traction. Tom Hart is spearheading the efforts in Grafton. He says Grafton organizers took note of what other places have tried, borrowed what they liked and made adjustments to suit the local scene. He says the First Friday effort has benefitted from the Turn This Town Around project.

“It connects with Turn This Town Around with promoting our downtown area specifically but also highlighting the notion that to support local businesses…you know the more dollars that are spent locally transfers into more dollars available locally,” says Hart. “And so that’s what that’s all about. It’s trying to highlight downtown Grafton as being THE place to go on the first Friday of every month.”

This is only the second “First Friday” in Grafton. Hart says plans are to continue at least through December and then perhaps take a break in the middle of winter. He says that’s still being discussed, but there is a sense of excitement about moving forward.

“Everybody seems to be working together on this and you know the Turn This Town Around has really brought on a new spirit of collaboration and communication among people in the community and that’s a tremendous thing,” says Hart. “Because you know the synergy that we get from that is just tremendous – it’s like atomic power.”

Mary Phillips owns a downtown business – Somethin’ Country. She also credits Turn This Town Around for a new community spirit.

“As much as anything it’s people’s attitudes,” says Phillips. “I mean they want to do something to make it look better and yeah they’re working on it and I think it’s wonderful.”

We've gotta bring this town alive, so if there's anything I can do, I'll be there. – Charlie White

Charlie White owns C.L. White Photography in downtown Grafton. He says he’s excited about “First Friday” and plans to be on hand. White predicts that, as word spreads about First Fridays, the monthly crowds will continue to grow.

This evening’s activities run from 4pm to 8pm.