United Downtown street party returns Friday

Photo: Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun

Photo: Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun

Are you looking for a fun way to get ready for the Gator game this weekend?Come out to United Way of North Central Florida's United Downtown in Downtown Gainesville on Friday! There will be a Swamp Head Brewery beer garden, plenty of local food, and live music.

By Jovahn Huertas | The Gainesville Sun


Gator fans in Gainesville looking to start the pregame party early need look no further than downtown.

The third annual United Downtown, a series of free street parties on Fridays before select home Gator football games, kicks off Friday on First Street between University Avenue and Southeast Second Place.

“It’s really a big community pep rally,” said Kim Faenza, marketing director of United Way of North Central Florida, which hosts the events.

Unlike previous years, each of the four events in 2013 will have a different theme, Faenza said. Friday’s theme will be “Gator Run-n-Fun” and include the Florida Track Club’s Sunset 5K beginning and ending at the event, as well as former Gator football players signing autographs and tossing footballs with guests.

“Many of the vendors relate to the theme,” Faenza said. “They had a choice to be part of the one week — their theme week — or all four weeks.”

The remaining events include a celebration of Gainesville on Sept. 20, an arts theme on Oct. 4, and a cars-and-motorcycles theme on Nov. 22.

At each event this year, Grooveshark will provide a DJ while Swamp Head Brewery hosts a beer garden serving its own Stump Knocker and Wild Night ales. All proceeds from the beer garden will go to United Way, said Brandon Nappy, Swamp Head’s marketing manager.

“United Way does a lot for Gainesville and around Gainesville,” Nappy said. “We just wanted to find a way to help them out.”

Returning from past years is an expanded play zone for children hosted by O2BKids!

United Downtown will take place alongside the “Free Fridays” concert series at Bo Diddley Community Plaza, a pairing Faenza said works well.

“The music is wonderful, fun and upbeat, and our guests love to listen to it,” she said.

Friday’s concert features classic rock by Crooked Counsel while the Sept. 20 event will feature Heavy Petty, the Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers tribute band, and the Oct. 4 event will feature Woodstock-era songs by The Relics. “We hope to complement ‘Free Fridays’ with the attendance we bring,” Faenza said.

Ultimately, with the new themes and an emphasis on interactivity, Faenza said she expects United Downtown attendance to grow.

“There’s a lot to do at the event,” she said. “It’s a really fun way to spend Friday night before the game and come together as a community.”

Virginia MacKoul

Virginia is a graduate from the University of Florida's College of Design Construction and Planning with a degree in Sustainability and the Built Environment, and a minor in Urban Regional Planning. Virginia joined the Front Street team in 2011, as an intern. Upon graduation, Virginia joined the Front Street team full-time as the Director of Client Services. Ms. MacKoul’s addition furthers Front Street’s continued growth and expansion within Gainesville and other North Central Florida markets. She was promoted to Director of Marketing in 2014 and now manages the firm’s team of interns and oversees all marketing and branding activity. Virginia was born in Boston and moved to Lee County, Florida in 1997. Virginia graduated her high school's International Baccalaureate program and started at the University of Florida with a focus on Architecture. Virginia shares Front Street's passion of giving back to the community and those in need. Virginia's hobbies include photography, cooking, football, movies, music, and spending time with her dog, Brinkley.

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