Organizers test ‘First Friday’ event in Lakeland, expect hundreds to attend

Polk County

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Organizers are hoping hundreds of people will gather in Downtown Lakeland Friday night as they put on a pre-pandemic monthly tradition in a mid-pandemic world.

Downtown Lakeland will be home to the first “First Friday” since early March.

The pandemic version is called “First Friday: Inside Out.” Masks are encouraged.

“I’m just hoping that people will be responsible and keep distance and wear masks when they can and be safe that way,” said Kate Milne, who lives in Lakeland.

Businesses expect a big boost.

“People are going to hear First Friday and they’re going to think to go down to Munn Park. They’re going to think to go down to the restaurant and think about going out again,” said Spencer Geniesse, a bar manager at Tsunami Sushi & Hibachi.

“This is not your typical First Friday,” said Julie Townsend, the executive director of Lakeland Downtown Development Authority. “This is definitely a test situation and that’s why I want to emphasize it’s not business as usual with First Friday.”

Restaurant dining will expand onto closed down streets, allowing for more customers to visit the restaurant.

Indoor dining is still limited to 50 percent capacity at Florida restaurants.

There will also be music and a car show, Townsend said.

There are no plans to turn people away if it gets too crowded.

“What’s to shut down? We can’t close the streets,” said Townsend. “I think it shuts itself down in the sense that there’s no place for those folks to, they can’t purchase food if the lines were too long, they can’t get a table and sit because there’s no tables and chairs available. There’s nothing for them to do except walk around.”

First Friday is scheduled for 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

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