Friday After 5 has come a long way

My wife and I were downtown Friday night, eating at a food truck and listening to music at Friday After 5.
And I thought, “There aren’t many of us left who were here for the first one on July 11, 1997.”
Some have moved on and some have passed on.
But there were only about 300 or so of us to start with.
We thought it was an enormous crowd at the time.
But it was confined to the 100 block of Daviess Street.
There was one band — Arnold Chin — and one stage — in the Atmos Energy Courtyard.
Nothing like the “mile of music” they advertise today with music on seven stages from the RiverPark Center to the
Holiday Inn Owensboro Riverfront.
And nothing like the average of 4,500 people a night that they estimate now.
If anybody back then truly believed the free music festival would grow into what it has become, he or she was indeed a
Today, people come from out of town to spend the weekend in Owensboro because of Friday After 5 and other
The event was created by what was then Downtown Owensboro Inc. as a way to get people to come back downtown
when there wasn’t a lot of reason to.
“We’re absolutely thrilled,” Nick Hetman, chairman of the first Fridays After 5 street festival, said that night.
Yes, it was originally called “Fridays After 5.”
“We didn’t expect this many people the first week,” Hetman said. “This is just great.”
The music began at 5:30 p.m. in the courtyard, which was designed to seat 125.
They estimated that there were 200 people crowded into the courtyard before Arnold Chin took the stage.
Another 40 or so were inside what was then Woodward’s Cafe on the south side of the courtyard.
And 50 or more sat or stood in chairs outside the wall.
The speakers were cranked up and the sound rolled along the street.
Those who couldn’t see had no trouble hearing.
Danny Fulkerson, lead singer for Arnold Chin, said the band insisted on being inside the courtyard.
“We like the cozy feel of the place,” he said. “This is great for the bands. And it’s great for the crowds. The crowds are
what make it fun. And we’re having a lot of fun tonight.”
Charlie Ward, who was manager of the Farmers Street Market along Daviess Street, was manning a stand on the
sidewalk outside the courtyard with tomatoes, new potatoes, beans, corn, squash, cucumbers, beets and more.
“They’re buying quite a lot,” he said. “We hope to have more stands next week.”
There were 10 free concerts planned that year.
John Froehlich, who was executive director of Downtown Owensboro Inc., said, “Now that we’ve got the people out
downtown on a Friday night, we’ve got to persuade more stores to stay open later on Friday nights to take advantage of
And that’s how it began.