Olathe & Southwest Joco

Fourth Fridays expanding in Olathe

Mad Science made a presentation at Olathe’s Fourth Friday’s celebration last week.
Mad Science made a presentation at Olathe’s Fourth Friday’s celebration last week. Submitted photo

Fourth Fridays are back.

The monthly celebration of downtown Olathe returns for its third year and the entertainment, live music, retail, and food planned for this year promises to attract more people than ever before.

New this year is the addition of themed Fridays that change every month through Fourth Fridays’ conclusion in September. Organizers said themes would help attract more diverse attendees. A beard competition and dog friendly day are two of the themes planned.

“Last year we became almost a young family event and we’re really trying to make it for all generations to have something great to be a part of,” Ryan Nelson said.

Nelson is one of the original founders of Fourth Fridays and a member of the Central Core Initiative. The non-profit organization is dedicated to bringing government, residents and business together to revitalize the heart of Olathe and surrounding downtown area, described as the “central core” neighborhood.

“We want to see this be an event that people in Olathe and people in the surrounding communities can come on out and be a part of it and just have a really positive experience in downtown Olathe. It’s a great community space where kids feel safe, parents can laugh and do all sorts of community things,” Nelson said.

Fourth Fridays is also expanding its partnerships with area businesses and organizations. The Olathe Convention & Visitors Bureau is working with organizers to promote downtown businesses and bring food trucks to the May Fourth Friday. The Olathe Latino Coalition is partnering with the organizers to kick off National Hispanic Heritage Month at the final Friday in September.

Emily Kukal, Olathe Neighborhood Assessment Coordinator, said the city was excited to see Fourth Fridays grow through hard work, word of mouth and social media.

The city has been a platinum sponsor of the event for two years and a supporter of the Central Core Initiative in its effort to show the other side of downtown outside of government operations.

“We think these events are great opportunities to get people downtown,” Kukal said. “Fourth Fridays are able to occur through sponsorships by businesses and organizations in the community. We are always looking for sponsorships and groups that would like to be involved. We would definitely welcome that. That’s part of growing the effort.”

The hard work is already paying off. Organizers say 200 to 250 people passed through Johnson County Square to explore the first Fourth Friday event of 2016 on April 22. Educator Appreciation Month was the theme, and attendees enjoyed teacher appreciation specials and discounts at downtown shops with extended hours, live music, free samples from Smokin’ Joe’s BBQ, a Kids Zone, and much more. Many attendees described the crowd as the largest one yet, especially in comparison to the initial Fourth Fridays three years ago that started with dozens of people centered at Kansas Coffee Café.

Cindy Newton and her husband, Dennis, own a business directly north of the café. It combines Kansas 4D Ultrasound, where expectant mothers can view a 3D moving image of their babies, with the toy and clothing store Peeps Babies and Bears. This was the third year they extended their hours to participate in Fourth Fridays and the fifth year they’ve been in business. The couple was happy with the growth of the event and efforts by organizers to promote downtown Olathe business.

“Six o’clock and people are still here,” Cindy Newton said. “That makes it feel like a downtown. We really enjoy when people realize that Olathe actually has a downtown with retail in it besides the attorneys and the CPAs and bail bondsmen. We’re down here. We want to see business thrive here.”

Jane Hosey Stern owns the gift shop Junque Drawer Boutique & Studio. She offered a 20 percent discount off purchases to teachers and gave away free double-sided pendants for the Fourth Fridays event.

“It’s been really fun. Today we’ve had at least 200 people. It’s been a really great day. We’re normally open til 6 and we stayed open an extra hour,” Hosey Stern said.

Fourth Fridays schedule for the rest of 2016

▪ May 20 (special date), 5 to 7 p.m.: Bike Rodeo

▪ June 24, 5 to 7 p.m.: Beautiful Beard Contest

▪ July 22, 5 to 7 p.m.: Dog Days of Summer

▪ Aug. 26, 5 to 7 p.m.: The Stories of Olathe

▪ Sept. 23, 5 to 8:30 p.m.: Celebration of the Arts - Fork and Screen

All Fourth Friday events take place at Johnson County Square located at 100 W. Park Street in Olathe. Sponsors, musicians, artists, entertainers, and food vendors can learn about getting involved at www.olathefourthfridays.com.