It’s First Friday and time for downtown Las Vegas to abound with innovative artist exhibits, live entertainment, vendors and other unique attractions . With so much to offer, the monthly event draws people from all walks of life. It sounds like your everyday street fair, but people behind First Friday have a greater goal in mind than just entertainment.
First Friday is a community building event. As Joey Vanas, the managing partner of First Friday Las Vegas describes it, First Friday is “a celebration of the best Las Vegas has to offer.”
The event also features a side of the city that people typically don’t expect to see. No one comes to Vegas for the arts scene, but First Friday is working to change that.
Once again this month, the event is incorporating a Burning Man element. This month it’s an exhibit called Burn Wall Street, an art project that will be installed as an Honorarium Art Project this year at Burning Man. Burn Wall Street was created by Otto Von Danger, a disabled veteran who has designed and built large-scale art for more than 12 years. Von Danger’s concept behind Burn Wall Street, is to start a discussion between people regardless of their political standpoints. The project is fiscally sponsored by Veterans for Peace, a 501c3 non-profit.
At the exhibit you can pay $5 to literally Shoot the Bull with five paintball gun shots as he moves between derivatives to options. The exhibit is set up in two box trucks. The other truck will be the Burn Wall Street Brokerage Office where you can see a three-dimensional display of the project and learn more about Burning Man.
Other highlights of this month’s event
- The Gazillionaire from “Absinthe” at Caesars Palace will debut his new show, “Empire,” in Get Back Alley. The show is opening in New York, but this performance will give audiences a free sneak peek of the new revue. Show times for the debut are at 8 and 9 p.m.
- Science Lab from 6 – 9 p.m. at 1213 Casino Center Blvd. Here kids of all ages can explore interactive and educational exhibits.
- Trash into Art at 1114 Casino Center Blvd. First Friday has teamed up with PickUpAmerca.org to create a 15-foot tall Trojan unicorn sculpture named Una. The sculpture is made out of recycled materials.
- Kids Zone at 1213 Casino Center Blvd. This feature includes live entertainment, an exotic petting zoo and free carnival games.
- Car show on 3rd Street.
If you’ve never been to or heard of First Friday, you may still be wondering what this event is all about. Here’s everything you need to know.
What is it?
Part art and music festival, part street fair, First Friday is a community building event that happens on the first Friday of every month. This event is a place for people to come together and see what locals have to offer. It’s also a chance for people to experience the burgeoning metropolitan environment continuing to evolve in downtown Vegas. More than anything, the monthly event offers something different than what people expect to find in Vegas. New events are added to First Friday each month, making every event unique and exciting.
Where is it?
First Friday takes place in downtown Vegas including the areas known as the Fremont East and Arts District. The majority of the art exhibits and galleries are located in the Arts District. Fremont East is home to kitschy bars and other venues that host events for First Friday. The Fremont Street Experience also hosts special events in honor of First Friday.
Fremont East - Fremont East was created as an entertainment district in 2002. It’s located adjacent to the Fremont Street Experience. For those bad with directions, just look up when you get to the end of the Fremont Street Experience opposite the Plaza. There’s a neon sign that arches over the street signifying where the Fremont East District starts. This area is home to various bars, clubs, restaurants and cafes. Some of the venues in this area include: The Griffin, Don’t Tell Mama, Insert Coins, Beauty Bar, the Get Back Alley and Downtown Cocktail Room.
Arts District - This area is located just south of downtown Vegas and Charleston Boulevard. The Arts District encompasses the area bound by Commerce Street, Hoover Avenue, Fourth Street and Las Vegas Boulevard (at Charleston) and Colorado Avenue. The area was once known as “18b” for the 18 blocks it encompasses. It has since expanded beyond that with the growing arts scene in that area. In the Arts District you’ll find funky art galleries, restaurants and unique shops. For First Friday the area comes alive with working art exhibits, live performances and other interactive attractions.
Fremont Street Experience - Located under a canopy of lights towering 90 feet above the ground, the Fremont Street Experience is the main attraction in downtown. The canopy features more than 12 million LED modules and a 555,000-watt sound system. Together they create a light show that operates at different times during the evening. The canopy acts as a unifying barrier for all the hotels surrounding it. It’s also home to several stages that feature free live entertainment. It’s always a popular hot spot for tourists and locals, but come First Friday the area really comes to life with additional live entertainment offerings.
When is it?
First Friday takes place on the first Friday of every month from 6 to 11 p.m.
How do I get around?
The best way to experience everything First Friday has to offer is to take advantage of the free shuttles. There are multiple parking areas where you can park and then hop on the shuttle for transportation throughout the evening. The shuttles run from 5:30 to 11:30 p.m.
Fremont Route (three stops): Get Back Alley First Friday entrance (corner of 6th Street and Fremont Street), Golden Nugget (lobby doors just north of the Rush Tower valet) and First Friday event space in Arts District (corner of Colorado and Main Street).
Government Center Route (three stops): Government Center parking lot (entrance to Rotunda Gallery), Commerce Art Galleries (Commerce Street) and First Friday event space in Arts District (corner of Colorado and Main Street).
All shuttle stops have an A-frame sign indicating where the pick-up location is located. There is a sticker on every shuttle bus indicating which route they run.
Where do I park?
Where to park depends upon where you want to spend the majority of time on your First Friday stop and where you want to end your evening. Free parking lots include: Government Center parking lot, El Cortez Hotel, Golden Nugget Hotel, Stewart Parking Garage on Las Vegas Boulevard and Stewart. There is a parking closer to the Casino Center events in a lot that charges $5.
If you want to end the night in downtown Vegas and hit up some of the bars near the Fremont East District, it’s best to park at the Golden Nugget or the El Cortez. If you want to be closer to the Arts District area at the end of the night, then the Government Center parking lot is a good option.
What’s there to do?
Part of the fun of First Friday is discovering what’s being featured at each month’s event. Every event is family-friendly, but there are plenty of adult-only things to do too. If you want to party with friends and grab drinks, there’s always a good crowd for First Friday. At the same time, if you’re there to check out some new art or listen to music, you can do that too. One of the great things about this event is there’s something for everyone. The featured events change every month. For a complete listing visit the First Friday website at: http://www.firstfridaylasvegas.com
What’s the deal with Burning Man and First Friday?
While you’re looking up information about First Friday, you may run into some mentions of Burning Man. After that you may start wondering, what’s Burning Man and what does it have to do with an event in downtown Vegas. Well, here’s the breakdown.
Burning Man is a week-long event that takes place once a year in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. Every year Burning Man attracts thousands of participants who congregate to build a temporary city founded on art, self expression, self-reliance and community.
Vanas attended Burning Man for the first time in 2011. He saw strangers helping strangers and realized that everything the event stood for was exactly what he wanted to see happen in downtown Vegas. Since then, Vanas has been working with various artists from Burning Man to help integrate some of what they do into First Friday.
The first Burning Man First Friday event took place in March when artists from Burning Man built a 20-foot tall showgirl that was ceremoniously burned in downtown as part of the monthly event.
How do I get involved?
After visiting First Friday you may be inspired to start your own art project or even volunteer. There are ways for everyone to get involved at First Friday. For more information on being a volunteer or how to participate in the event as an artist, vendor, etc. visit: http://www.firstfridaylasvegas.com/get-involved.htm .