Fun on the Delaware

Bristol Borough First Fridays kick off May 4 with food, art and family-friendly entertainment

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

Local creativity: This year’s community art project will be the building and decorating of garden posts, which will be strategically placed throughout the Borough later in the year. Source: Bristol Borough First Fridays

In one short year, Bristol Borough has experienced an explosion of growth. Multiple eateries, including Itri Wood Fired and Chuck’s BBQ, opened their doors; Bristol Riverside Theatre celebrated the success of The Producers, one of its most acclaimed productions to date; and the $3 million pier and docks project was unveiled, providing potential tourists an alternative means to visit the area.

With Bristol on the rise as the county’s go-to spot for dining and entertainment, it only made sense for one of its staple events to be bigger and better than ever this year. Scheduled for May 4, June 1, July 6, Aug. 3 and Sept. 7, the fourth season of Bristol Borough First Fridays promises free, family-friendly activities, creative themes and endless outdoor fun that’s sure to please longtime Bristolians and first-time visitors alike.

Organized by the Bristol Borough Business Association, the 2018 season of the award-winning First Fridays is slated to include more outdoor participation from local businesses and eateries than in previous years. According to BBBA administrative coordinator Shea Cialella, attendees can expect a large increase in the number of sidewalk vendors and grab-and-go food options.

“People don’t want to sit in a restaurant,” she said. “They want to sit on the grass and enjoy the entertainment.”

While a limited number of food trucks such as Bread and Butter will be on hand, Cialella explained the goal this year is to make First Fridays as local as possible. In addition to Itri and Chuck’s, a number of restaurants plan to set up tables for quick and easy outdoor sales, including Cafe Bombay, Mill Street Cantina, King George II Inn, Annabella’s, The Borough Pub and Golden Eagle Diner, which will have a pastry chef on hand crafting cheese and bread confections. To help visitors navigate, Cialella is designing maps that will highlight the various food locations.

After guests are ladened with their tasty treats, they can head down to the river for a jam-packed lineup of entertainment. Performances will take place from tribute group Privileged Few Band, which will rock the gazebo at Bristol Lions Park, as well as students from Stepping Stone Dance Studio.

For the kids (and kids at heart), royalty from Sing Along Princess Parties will perform sporadically throughout the afternoon, take pictures with attendees and offer $8-$10 makeovers for aspiring princesses.

Along Mill Street, the first block of Radcliffe Street and at the Wharf during the May and September events, additional free kid-friendly entertainment will include face painting, balloon animals, caricatures, hula hoopers and magician Doug Wonder of I See Magic, who blew Cialella away last year when he made a table levitate in the middle of the street.

“I still don’t know how he did it,” she said. “The kids are captivated by him.”

Last year, a highlight of First Fridays was the chance to participate in a community art project — a mosaic of the iconic Grundy Clock Tower, which has since been installed as a permanent exhibit at the Margaret R. Grundy Library. After so much success and positive feedback, Patricia Buchanan is spearheading an all-new project for the 2018 season — the building and decorating of garden posts, which will be strategically placed throughout the Borough later in the year.

Another beloved aspect of 2017 was the creative themes, which Cialella is implementing once again for the June, July and August events. The first will be “Country Hoedown,” featuring square dancing, an appearance by Woody and Jessie of Toy Story and more. “Christmas in July” comes next, followed by “Super Heroes vs. Everyday Heroes” in August. Attendees young and old as well as business owners are encouraged to dress up and get in spirit of the themes.

To capture all of the festivities, Michael T. Mallon of Aerial Photography & Video by Oldskillz Graphics will have his drone combing the skies to take videos and photos, as well as a running live feed that will air at his 304 Mill St. table. According to Cialella, Mallon is drone certified, which means he takes precautions to clear areas where the miniature aircraft is flying overhead.

As Cialella and the BBBA put the finishing touches on Friday’s kick off event, anticipation is already at an all-time high as more than 1,000 social media users selected “interested” or “going” on its unadvertised Facebook page.

“It’s going to be bigger and better. There’s no way it’s not,” she said. “Who doesn’t like a free festival?” ••

If you go…

Bristol Borough First Fridays will take place May 4, June 1, July 6, Aug. 3 and Sept. 7 from 5 to 8 p.m. Visit facebook.com/BristolBoroughFirstFridays for more information and updates. Admission is free, and the event is rain or shine.

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com