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St. Petersburg First Friday block party is canceled indefinitely

For two decades, the downtown block party drew hundreds of people across a variety of age groups. Organizers are in need of sponsors to keep it going.
 
Crowds gather on Central Avenue in downtown St. Petersburg at a 2022 First Friday block party. The monthly block party has been going on for more than 20 years on Central Avenue, but organizers are in search of sponsors to continue.
Crowds gather on Central Avenue in downtown St. Petersburg at a 2022 First Friday block party. The monthly block party has been going on for more than 20 years on Central Avenue, but organizers are in search of sponsors to continue. [ Tampa Bay Nightlife TV ]
Published Nov. 30, 2023|Updated Dec. 7, 2023

ST. PETERSBURG — For more than 20 years, on the first Friday of every month, traffic would be stopped on two blocks of Central Avenue for a block party featuring live music and vendors selling beer and food. But unless some deep-pocketed sponsors come to the rescue, the popular gathering is likely going away, organizers said.

The party doesn’t happen without lots of coordination with the city, costing close to $12,000 each month to pay for closing the streets, policing, insurance and staging.

“As much as we love this event and the history behind it, First Friday St. Pete is still paused for now,” organizers wrote on the First Friday St. Pete Facebook account. “It costs $12,000 to put on the event (insurance, city sanitation and police, permits, production, etc.) with no profit to our company, and with a lack of interest from local businesses to sponsor the event, much less larger sponsors, we do not have the funds at this time.”

The event was last held on Oct. 6, but in November it was put “on pause,” and organizers said they were working ”to revamp the event and hopefully be back in December.”

But this week they announced that it is “still paused” as they search for sponsors to help defray the costs.

The pandemic stopped the gatherings in 2020. The Breakfast Optimist Club of St. Petersburg, the creator of the event first called Get Downtown in the late 1990s, handed it over to Tampa Bay Nightlife TV, which picked up the club’s tradition of using the party to raise money for local charities.

Music producer 22N Productions and Tampa Bay Nightlife TV restarted the block party in early 2022. The monthly gathering once again drew hundreds of people who packed Central Avenue between Second and Third streets.

NOTE: This story has been updated to correct that it was the Breakfast Optimist Club of St. Petersburg that created the event first called Get Downtown in the late 1990s