Monday, March 27, 2023
March 27, 2023

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Ridgefield ready for inaugural First Saturday weekend

Festival series gets going Friday afternoon with cultural parade

By , Columbian Small Cities Reporter

This weekend, Ridgefield is launching the first installment in a series of new monthly festivals aimed at drawing more foot traffic to the city’s quiet downtown core.

On Saturday, Ridgefield will host its inaugural First Saturday, a themed celebration set to take place on the first weekend of each month with concerts, beer and wine, art auctions and a variety of family-oriented activities. The event has been long in the making, and it’s one of the first palpable signs of a new effort to help downtown businesses thrive as Ridgefield continues to grow faster than just about any other place in Washington.

Heading into the weekend, the scene had already begun to take shape. On Thursday, downtown posts were wrapped in brightly-colored flowers and streamers.

Many groups have had a hand in putting it all together, City Manager Steve Stuart said.

“It was a collaborative community conversation between (Ridgefield) Main Street, the council and mayor and city staff,” Stuart said. “It was everybody getting together to talk about ways to get people downtown. We have a beautiful downtown, and we want to show people.”

The city’s going all out for its initial First Saturday, the May Day Festival. The festivities will actually kick off at 1:30 p.m. Friday with a cultural parade down Pioneer Street put on by students from Union Ridge Elementary. In the evening, the Ridgefield Arts Association will hold its annual art fair down the street at the Ridgefield Community Center.

The celebration will continue Saturday morning, coinciding with a garden club plant sale at the school district’s bus barn and the return of Ridgefield’s farmers market at Overlook Park. Activities will continue into the afternoon at the park and a number of downtown businesses.

Many merchants plan to host sidewalk sales or raffles on Saturday, and some will boast expanded menus to attract more customers, Stuart said.

“It’s just another example of how the Ridgefield community’s coming together and celebrating what we have to offer,” he said.

Inspiration for Ridgefield’s First Saturdays came from the success of Camas’ First Fridays, organized by the Downtown Camas Association — another Main Street program.

Friday marks the 10th anniversary of Camas’ original First Friday, said Carrie Schulstad, the association’s executive director.

Attendance at the events has exploded in the last three years as the economy improved and the Downtown Camas Association began planning a theme for each First Friday. Members of Ridgefield’s own Main Street program took notice and began asking Schulstad for advice on how to help their own monthly downtown festival take off.

“They have an active group, but they’re just still in the really early (stages),” Schulstad said. “They’ve got support from the city, really good support, surprising support, and support from their port, which is great.”

Schulstad is confident Ridgefield’s First Saturdays will become a big deal for the community in the coming years, especially as the Port of Ridgefield develops its own waterfront extension of downtown.

The port has long had plans for the site, known as Millers’ Landing. So far, selling the property to developers has been a challenge, as work continues to clean up the area from industrial contamination after Pacific Wood Treating’s closure more than 20 years ago.

“That’ll be a destination just in its own,” Schulstad said. “Their downtown will capitalize on all of that.”

Columbian Small Cities Reporter