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'Last Friday' shindigs to perk up Williams Park

The Williams Park band shell will go to good use on Dec. 26, the first monthly party, set for 6 to 10 p.m. Behind the concept is Friends of Williams Park, a volunteer group that formed this year after the Downtown Neighborhood Association “adopted” Williams Park in hopes of revitalizing it.

CHERIE DIEZ | Times (2003)

The Williams Park band shell will go to good use on Dec. 26, the first monthly party, set for 6 to 10 p.m. Behind the concept is Friends of Williams Park, a volunteer group that formed this year after the Downtown Neighborhood Association “adopted” Williams Park in hopes of revitalizing it.

ST. PETERSBURG — It took about a month for the "Last Friday" concert series at Williams Park to come together.

In that time, the St. Petersburg City Council passed an ordinance that allows beer and wine to be sold at the event, and a resolution allowing the city to co-sponsor it.

In mere weeks, a list of sponsors came through, providing money and agreements to provide food, a microbrewed beer concession and a cigar roller's table. And the St. Petersburg classic rock group the Tempests was booked.

Last week, as Dec. 26 was being arranged as the debut performance date, Kevin Lilly and Johnny Green marveled at how quickly it all came together. A second concert for Jan. 30 — performer to be announced — is being finalized.

"I didn't realize the amount of people who are supportive of this kind of thing," said Lilly, of LiveAlive Productions.

"It's like rocket-ship fast," said Green, who has been promoting Tampa Bay concerts since 1972. "Sometimes you have to spend weeks talking people into things, and then every now and then there is a magical project."

Behind the project is Friends of Williams Park, a group of volunteers that formed this year after the Downtown Neighborhood Association chose to "adopt" Williams Park in hopes of revitalizing it as a downtown destination. Lilly, a founder of the Bloc, a downtown marketing group, is a member of the park advocacy group.

Friends of Williams Park formed as the downtown green space continues to struggle with a reputation that it is a haven for homeless people, drug activity and crime.

In pitching the concert series, Lilly and Green embraced the idea of supporting the less fortunate. They will steer a percentage of profits to Pinellas Hope, which provides temporary shelter in an industrial area at 5726 126th Ave. N. They also plan to set up a "Pinellas Hope Chest" that will serve as a collection center for food and clothing for the needy.

The organizers said they also will donate a percentage of profits to the Abilities Foundation, which supports people with disabilities; and the Wunsch Family Foundation, for children with cancer and chronic blood disorders.

Among the sponsors who have lined up are Chappy's Louisiana Kitchen, which will provide food inside the "Hurricane Alley Beer Garden"; MJ's Jazz Lounge, which will set up "MJ's VIP Lounge"; and Central Cigars, which will provide cigar rolling.

Still in the works is a "Family Fun Zone" with amusements for children. Other sponsors and vendors are being sought to fill a large tent called "The Town Square," made up of food vendors, art and community displays. Anyone interested can contact Lilly at klilly@lastfridayconcerts.com or Tracy Neville at tneville@lastfridayconcerts.com.

The organizers expect 2,000 people in the park for the first performance, from 6 to 10 p.m., and will seek bigger-name performers several times a year.

Luis Perez can be reached at (727) 892-2271 or lperez@sptimes.com.

'Last Friday' shindigs to perk up Williams Park 12/13/08 [Last modified: Sunday, December 14, 2008 1:30pm]

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