Conjuring up college memories of downing wine and free cheese while pretending to look at art, “First Fridays” (and often less alliteratively, Thursdays) is a familiar enough term to many Hudson Valley residents. They might be surprised, however, to find that many local communities throughout the area have expanded these monthly events to vitalize their neighborhoods.
Back in the early 2000s, Art Along the Hudson encouraged Hudson Valley towns to designate one weekend day in the summer months each to celebrate local art and artists. Many of these “River Walks” were the foundations what have become year-round events in the region.
The first Friday of every month, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., Poughkeepsie shops extend their hours — and deep discounts and deals — to locals and visitors alike. Pop-up shops and live music are part-and-parcel for the town, and Mayor Rob Rolinson is frequently on hand to welcome guests. Look for specially planned events, such as an annual end-of-summer pig roast and barbecue and a San Gennero fest.
In Rockland County, Nyack hosts its own First Fridays events in conjunction with the Nyack Arts Collective. Monthly showings include group art exhibitions and public discussions, along with local restaurant and business partnerships. The Edward Hopper House, for example, holds artist-of-the-month receptions followed by its own Gallery Talk series to discuss the works of great artists across media.
The Village of Saugerties follows suit, with its monthly art and concert series. Stores and eateries likewise stretch their regular business hours and offer up plenty of specials. The Saugerties Steam Boat Co., for example, hosts water sports along Esopus Creek like kayak and paddle board rentals, followed by delicious special menus at its restaurant. (Bourbon and barbecue co-hosted with the Catskill Distilling Company, anyone?)
Downtown Albany is home to a funky and exciting night that celebrates art and culture. At 5 p.m., visitors and locals fill the streets to attend special events, enjoy live music, view exhibitions, and much more. Some of the local restaurants, shops, and bars offer discounts in honor of the event. Free wine tastings are held at Capital Wine, which offers a 16 percent discount at the tasting and for two weeks after the tasting.
Tonight is Second Saturday in #beaconny. As you are checking out all the happenings around town, make sure to have a look at the new public art in the bus shelters like this one on Main St @ Cliff near the Beacon Bread Co. This artwork was provided by Kyra Husbands, a recent graduate of BHS and current art student at the School of Visual Arts in NYC @svanyc @k.y.ra
Beacon holds one of the largest Second Saturdays celebrations around, centered heavily on BeaconArts and associated groups. Many local businesses hold special events, restaurants run deals and tastings, live music permeates the air, and Beacon’s many galleries, museums, stores, and dining establishments throw open their doors, some as late as 9 p.m. For the visual arts, there’s just no beating Dia:Beacon, and the same is true of the Beacon Hotel’s restaurant for evening dining. BeaconArts even does you the courtesy of letting you sign up for their mailing list to get the scoop on all forthcoming Second Saturday celebrations.
Newburgh offers up one of the most interesting monthly celebrations to make our list. Back when Art Along the Hudson first began working with local communities, towns like Kingston, Rhinebeck, and — yes — Beacon, and Poughkeepsie snagged the first three weeks of the month for their own River Walks. Newburgh picked up the last, though after a few years the outdoor experience started to wane. The concept was revitalized by local businesswoman, Lisa Gervais, in 2014 under the name Newburgh Last Saturdays, and incorporates gallery showings from institutions like SUNY Orange and Space Create. Other events include fitness and movement classes, art and social commentary discussions and lectures, and, of course, plenty of specials at the local shops and restaurants.
While these are some of our favorites, many other Hudson Valley towns and businesses partake in monthly weekend festivities. Do you have a favorite “First Friday” celebration? Tell us in the comments!