Excellence on Main Award

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Camas First Fridays

Awardee: Downtown Camas Association

Award: Outstanding Promotional Event

Year: 2015

City: Camas

2015 marks the tenth anniversary for Camas First Fridays, which is hosted by the Downtown Camas Association. The event, like many other First Fridays across the country, provides a reason for people to break from daily routine and interact with the community. What makes Camas First Fridays unique is their ability to keep the event fresh and engaging for the participants.

Typically an art-based event, Camas knew early on that art alone would not be a sustainable draw with only two small art galleries in the community, so they opted to feature monthly themes and family-friendly activities. The consistency of the event keeps it top of mind, while the changing themes keep it exciting. Examples of successful themes include “A Chocolate Affair to Remember” with chocolate treats and a candy guessing game in each store; “Go Green!” with a Lucky Leprechaun hunt in stores, businesses posting how they are green, and green activities for the families; and “Spring Into History,” a tribute to the mill and town history with a trivia hunt in stores and a toilet paper toss as tribute to the mill.

One of the most successful themes was the “Camas Car Show,” which ultimately grew into its own event. The “Pumpkin Pageant” theme, where each merchant carves pumpkins and competes in a community vote, is also popular. All events are free and appeal to families and adults out for a fun night.

One of the more tangible benefits the event has for the community is the boost it provides to local merchants. The event draws locals and visitors off the sidewalks and into stores, making it an opportunity for participating merchants to boost sales. This design is highly intentional and introduces shoppers to merchants and products they may have overlooked otherwise. Restaurants that used to participate are now too busy with customers to participate and other stores claim record sales on First Fridays month after month, and many are expanding!

Other benefits of the event include the promotion of a collaborative environment for downtown merchants, opportunity for students and volunteers to be involved in the community, a place for non-profits to advance their missions, a way for local artists to showcase their work, and a way to entertain kids while instilling a sense of community pride. Since the start of 2014, general attendance has increased by 30%, and attendance for children has increased by 50%.

“The Downtown Camas Association has found a way to keep this event fresh and dynamic month after month,” said Sarah Hansen, former Washington State Main Street Program Coordinator. “Not only are retail and restaurant businesses benefiting, but this has created a mechanism for the entire community to become invested in downtown.”