Variety and entertainment draw people to Eustis First Fridays every month.
Photos: Nicole Hamel
The City of Eustis’ First Fridays have been something for locals to look forward to each month since the first event in 1997.
Originally organized by the Downtown Merchants Organization, First Fridays take place on the first Friday of every month, though the last few have been cancelled due to COVID-19.
Finding entertainers and vendors for First Friday is the responsibility of Erin Bailey, who was raised in Ormond Beach and took over as the City of Eustis’s events coordinator when she moved to Eustis in February of 2014.
“Everybody’s having a good time, they usually have at least one band there and it brings everybody out.”
“Some of the bands have been playing at First Fridays for years, some I’ve booked previously to my working with the city, and others are recommended by the community or other event planners. Genres have ranged from Country and Southern Rock, to Reggae, Celtic and Bluegrass,” Erin says.
Other than the unique bands on the main stage, attendees can also find “community-minded vendors, family-friendly activities, downtown businesses and restaurants, local entertainment and FUN!” Erin adds.
Depending on the time of year, Eustis First Fridays bring in anywhere from 900-2,000 guests. Erin surveyed First Friday attendees in 2019 and found that visitors’ favorite parts of First Fridays include the bands and entertainment, vendors, meeting friends, affordable activities, ease of parking, classic cars and variety of food choices.
Seminole PowerSports North is one of the many vendors participating in First Friday. Seminole PowerSports North, located on US-441 in Eustis, is a powersports dealership that sells things like four wheelers, dirt bikes, side by sides, personal watercrafts and motorcycles. The company usually sets up a tent and tries to bring a motorcycle or two, personal watercraft, or something for kids each month, depending on what’s new or the time of the year. Jace Appleby, marketing manager of Seminole PowerSports North, says he likes First Fridays because he gets to actually interact with customers. “Being in the community kinda brings the small-town business feel to what’s actually a pretty big business here,” Jace says. “It’s nice to actually interact with folks on a more personal level, because it’s a big street party, as opposed to just sitting at your desk talking to them, where it’s strictly business here (in the office).”
Kelly Fessenden, a consultant for the wickless candle company Scentsy, has enjoyed interacting at First Friday for five years. “I’ve been doing it for so many years, I’m very fortunate because it’s something people always need to replace, and I enjoy seeing these people over and over again. I like the interaction, I love the people, the entertainment is wonderful, they’ve got a good selection of food vendors, a good selection of vendors period,” says Kelly, who brings her whole “set-up” to First Fridays, including wax, warmers, diffusers and other items for customers to view. “I’m totally on display,” Kelly says.
You’ll find an array of food vendors at First Fridays, including the Sweet Blessings by Sindy food truck or Fillin Good Food Truck, which offers specialty burgers, subs and sandwiches.
Carl Woodworth, owner of Woody’s Grille, a mobile food truck, has been participating in First Fridays since right after he opened the truck around April of 2019. Woody’s Grille specializes in American-style sandwiches, the main item being a pot roast sandwich. They also serve philly cheesesteaks, hamburgers, one-fourth pound hotdogs and a deep-fried hotdog wrapped in bacon, as well as deep fried desserts like Reese’s and cheesecake during the street parties.
Carl usually sees around 80 customers at each event and loves to see the community all together. “Everybody’s having a good time, they usually have at least one band there and it brings everybody out,” Carl says. Asked what he loves about the events, he replied, “Just getting together and making new friends and seeing old friends.”
Vendors include crafters like Yvette’s Jewelry Box and Kimber Lights decorative outdoor lighting, as home improvement and real estate businesses, including All American Gutter, Home Performance Alliance, Mortgage Financial Group, Bath Fitter, Timberline Log & Timber Frame Homes, Secured Dock Builders and Cifelli Real Estate. You can also look for Praise Cathedral Church of God, Umatilla SDA Church and the United States Coast Guard. Health care providers attending will be United Health Care and Mid Florida Agencies. Those with RVs should check out the Southern Palms RV Resort booth.
With all of these options for food, shopping, entertainment and more, you’ll have to mark Eustis on your calendar for every First Friday!
Originally from Buffalo, NY, Victoria graduated from Canisius College in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in English and Writing. In August of 2019, she relocated to Eustis, Florida, and soon began at Akers Media Group assisting with social media projects. Later that year, she was promoted to a full-time writing position at the company and has since found her niche telling the stories of so many of Lake and Sumter County’s awesome people.
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