FORT BRAGG, 5/6/23 — Upon stopping the car between Franklin and Main streets in Fort Bragg, May’s First Friday, a free monthly art and music event across several venues, seemed pretty bleak. Light rain, with a touch of wind had clearly kept the streets empty of people. Was it canceled? But after reluctantly opening the car door, an amazing cacophony greeted this reporter. Not just a little music, but coming from so many different directions made the joyous occasion impossible to miss.
The First Friday festivities drew a big crowd, even if people sped quickly between sites. “Paul Bunyan” (Mike Stephens) was found posing for portraits outside Piaci Pub and Pizzeria, along with Paul Bunyan Association President Heather Webster, whose only worry was keeping her volunteer sign-up list dry. They were telling everybody about the fun of Fort Bragg’s oldest event, which happens over Labor Day Weekend and is seeking help with myriad activities. Behind them, several bands took turns playing at the pizza restaurant and bar. But that was just the beginning. The Mendocino Coast Jazz Society presented the First Friday & Music Book Sale with 17 musicians in various stores and locations in Fort Bragg. Proceeds from the books for sale went to the Jazz Society Scholarship Fund.
First Fridays are usually more art-centric, at museums and galleries, but May brought a record number of bands playing all at once, long time participants in First Friday all said. And all the venues had decent-sized crowds, but with less walking between than usual.
On the Company Store front porch was Marianne and the French Connection. Next, inside the Company Store at Epperson Music, Keeter Stewart played the blues guitar. There was also an event at Koko’s in the Company Store. Across the street in Windsong Books, Lynn Kiesewetter & Bing York played piano & bass. Up at Edgewater Gallery was Joe Pardini on the guitar. Next door at the North Coast Art Gallery, Bob Day & Erica Zissa played guitar and sax. At the Bookstore on Laurel Street Dan Albrecht played piano. At the Headlands Coffee shop was the First Friday Jazz Band. At Art Explorers Nancy and The Uke Group offered a singalong that drew a big crowd.
Across the street was the biggest line, but it was not part of First Friday. Teenagers mobbed Roller Skate Night at the old gymnasium inside City Hall. With many wearing competing sparkly outfits, an old-fashioned tradition came full circle. This was something the kids loved in 1981 and 1961 too. There was a showing of the original Night of the Living Dead at KNYO radio and a show by woodworkers, along with a few stores staying open long past their closing times. Snacks and wine tasting were all around. Cobalt Gallery featured a new exhibit, “Storms” by professional photographer Larry R. Wagner, which turned out to be an extra appropriate theme for the night.
There was a drum circle planned by Transition Towns up at nearby Pudding Creek Beach, but it looked like that got rained out long before moonrise. The moon itself was a no-show Friday, with dense cloud cover.
Another long awaited event was the opening of Art Scene Studio. Locals have watched the renovation for several years and were invited in for an open studio for First Friday. Located in the old Forrester Building on East Redwood, Art Scene Studio is a co-working space for artists, providing a spacious area for artists to work and display their work. Next door the Mendocino Dance Project put on an improv show.
Art Explorers galley plans a big celebration of their 23rd birthday on First Friday, June 2. Art Explorers is a nonprofit creative arts program that primarily serves adults with developmental disabilities. On Sunday, the Larry Spring Museum is hosting Baba Commandant and the Mandingo Band will perform. At 6 p.m. snacks and drinks are offered, at 7 p.m music. The event costs $10-30 on a sliding scale.
Tusk Festival 2015 — Baba Commandant & The Mandingo Band who are traveling from the North African nation of Burkina Faso.
See more photos from First Friday below: