The proponents of Kenmore Boulevard, aka “The Blvd,” want everyone to know that it’s open for business.
They also want you to know that any stereotypes you may still be harboring about what happens on The Blvd are probably incorrect and you should take some time, come on down have a beer, buy some stuff and check it out for yourself.
To encourage more Kenmore urban exploration, the Kenmore Neighborhood Alliance, along with the local chamber of commerce and boulevard businesses, have teamed up to present First Friday Kenmore. If you didn’t glean it from the name, FFK takes place on the first Friday of each month and each Friday has a different theme. July’s theme was Rock n’ Roll BBQ and on a not quite brutally hot day.
The Boulevard strip becomes a street fair with local business setting up or hosting live music outside their storefronts plus plenty of other vendors plying their wares up and down the street. To keep the kids interested, there’s a couple of inflatable bounce houses on a nearby closed-off side street. If the kids are a bit old for bouncing, First Glance Skatepark has activities from talent shows to pop-a-shots and of course, skateboarding.
There are always at least a few food trucks to go along with local organizations and businesses selling food, and you may catch cool sights and sounds such as a couple of junior instructors from the Dreams Academy jamming on drums or veteran local musician Charlie Mossbrook performing outside a business.
When it’s time for a beer, walk up to Live Music Now, order a beer or three and settle in at the adjacent gazebo, which doubles as the beer garden and the main stage for live music. LMN is pure DIY, not fancy at all, but they’ve got a solid selection of local brews and once purchased, you can go out into the beer garden (no open alcohol on the street, please). For July, the rock n’ roll was supplied by local rock band Fancy Legs and Missile Toe, “The World’s Greatest Christmas Band.”
Mary Hernandez and her husband, Mark Steurer, and her sister Kim Jenkins were in the beer garden enjoying beer and grooving to the rockin’ sounds of Fancy Legs. Jenkins, a native “Kenmoron” (“I will totally take that, I’m a Kenmoron,” she said.) was particularly interested in the band as singer/guitarist Corey Jenkins is her son.
“I’m just glad it’s still here,” she said of her old neighborhood. Though they had many issues with the reconfigured street parking on the boulevard, they considered First Friday Kenmore itself a good time.
“It’s fun, we came last month, too, and my kid wasn’t even playing, so there you go,” Jenkins said.
Hernandez said she appreciated the local-ness of it all.
“It’s good," she said. "They [Live Music Now] represent the local breweries and have a nice selection.”
“The improvements are for the better because before you never wanted to come down here. You tear a building down and now you have this nice green space,” Steurer said of the beer garden.
“It’s cleaned up, the buildings are not in disrepair and vacant like they used to be,” Hernandez added.
Later, on the other side of the garden, Jana Prince and Alisa Harris were sharing a Black & Mild cigar and grooving to the Christmas-in-July sounds of Missile Toe. The couple, who are Kenmore High grads, moved back to the neighborhood in 2018 and said they missed last month’s edition of FFK but were determined to make it for July.
“I love it, it’s good entertainment," Harris said, adding that she enjoyed talking to people at the event.
“That band was a bad band. I liked that a lot,“ Prince, an avowed fan of live music, said of Missile Toe following their extended mashup of the 60s rock classic “Gloria,” the holiday classic “The Night Before Christmas,” and the hook from the beloved holiday hymn “Gloria in Excelsis Deo.”
“I like this area, that band could’ve been (on the Lock 3) stage they’re that good,” Prince said.
The couple said they walked the boulevard and just enjoyed seeing local businesses representing and people enjoying themselves and talking to each other.
“Yeah, they come out of the shop and get to know people." Harris said.
On Aug. 2 (You know, the first Friday!) the theme will be Arts, Jazz + Blues and will feature local acts who will be performing at the upcoming Rubber City Jazz & Blues Festival. In September, the theme is Back-to-School Superheroes and kids of all ages are encouraged to dress up as their favorite superhero and see local emcee Floco Torres and others.
First Friday Kenmore isn’t the hippest happening-est hottest spot. My photographic cohort referred to it as a pleasant “mild spot,” but for the curious, hungry and anyone who enjoys a budding street fair in a proudly rehabbing area, I suggest taking Harris’ advice.
“Come on down, I’ll be here next First Friday, it’s a good time.”
Malcolm X Abram can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-996-3758. Like him on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/1lNgxml, and follow him on Twitter @malcolmabramABJ.