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First Fridays showcase Mount Vernon’s historic downtown

“I could never remember a time we didn’t have First Friday,” Carrie Hyman, executive director of Main Street Mount Vernon (MSMV), said. MSMV is the nonprofit in charge of First Fridays, a summer festival that shuts down South Main Street once a month between June and September and fills downtown with tables and trucks from a variety of local businesses.

Hyman compared the festival to other community events hosted in the area. “It’s a staple,” she said. “People expect it.”

That is not to say that First Friday is taken for granted. MSMV is constantly at work fielding feedback and tweaking the festival to match the community’s expectations. This year, Hyman says, MSMV has received requests for everything from improved kids’ entertainment to a beer garden — and the nonprofit has been hard at work to meet the demand. The strategy seems to be working. Last summer, Hyman estimates, there were roughly 1,000 guests at each Friday event. This summer, the number was closer to 2,500.

First Friday is just one of the projects MSMV has included in its broad mission to promote economic development and historical preservation in downtown Mount Vernon. With the help of state- and nationwide nonprofits like Heritage Ohio and Main Street America, MSMV is involved in everything from ensuring streets are swept to helping businesses network with each other. The organization supports the revitalization of the community in any way they can — and that community doesn’t end with Mount Vernon.

“We like to come down,” Rachel Kessler ’04, Kenyon chaplain and priest-in-charge at Harcourt Parish, said. “Kenyon is part of this community too.”

On a walk down Mount Vernon’s Main Street, Kenyon seems to crop up everywhere. Professors are working stands, students are wandering with friends — everyone is enjoying a Friday off the Hill.

“I’m here with my partner,” Sophie Mortensten, ’21 said, “to show her the beauty of Ohio festivals.”

Hyman is thankful for the support that MSMV has, from people like Karen Buchwald Wright (namesake of Kenyon’s Wright Center) to the Ariel Foundation and the Communities Foundation of Mount Vernon and Knox County.

As it stands, First Friday was a resounding success. Vendors from all across Ohio shared streetspace with Ken Harbaugh’s congressional campaign and a project to revitalize Mt. Calvary, the second-oldest black church in Ohio. “People believe in our downtown,” Hyman said, “and continue to work to make it grow and be a place that people want to come.”

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