The Freeman’s Friday Night Live is the perfect way to spend a warm summer night. You’ll be surrounded by crowds of people, live music and aromas coming from every restaurant and café around the block.
Freeman Friday Night Live, which begins next week and runs all summer, brings Waukesha’s downtown to life. Businesses are bustling with people from all over the state coming to enjoy the bands, specialty stores and eateries, which stay open late during all the festivities. The music and atmosphere are free to enjoy.
“My business is absolutely affected by Friday Night Live and the crowd it brings," said Susan Steiner, owner of Bangles and Bags. "It gets very busy here and it helps a ton. We’re even able to stay open later until 9:30 p.m. because there are so many people.”
Many owners of the downtown shops agree.
“It helps my business tremendously,” says Kathy Garcia, owner of Poppin’ on Broadway. “It helps people to really get to know the shops that are down here and it always brings customers back through all the seasons.”
This is Garcia’s third year being a part of Friday Night Live. This year, she even sponsors her own stage called “Rockin’ and Poppin’ on Broadway.” She keeps her store open until 10 p.m. during these Fridays and even offers hot buttered popcorn and slushies throughout the night.
During the festival, people can roam the streets because they’re blocked off for the safety of pedestrians. The move by the Waukesha Police Department has become controversial with not all downtown stakeholders agreeing with the decision. However, a May 24, 2011, Waukesha Freeman article shows that Mayor Jeff Scrima stands behind the police department's decision to block the street for the safety of the participants.
Many business owners agree that being able to walk around and see the stores really lets people see what downtown has to offer. Most people in their cars are focused on driving versus looking at the new shops and restaurants. Some people couldn’t even tell you what was in the downtown area.
The best part about Friday Night Live is that it’s for all ages.
“This is the Facebook for the older generations," said Sally Shoemaker, owner of the Cuddles gift shop. "This is where they can reconnect with people that they haven’t seen in forever and can catch up on everything going on with them.”
Even though alcohol is served, many businesses state they have never seen or heard of any problems.
“I have never had any problems with people being disrespectful or causing problems," Shoemaker said. "Everyone is really well-behaved and cooperative with those around them.”
Shoemaker also said that people know that having something free and fun like this so close to home is a really good thing. No one wants to take that away from anyone, so they stick together and make it a problem-free place to be.
Shoemaker, like Garcia, sponsors her own stage next to her shop. She also will have chairs available for the elderly that want to come out and enjoy the music.
The Freeman’s Friday Night Live is every Friday between June 3 and Sept. 30 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Many stores are open later, so make sure you take a look at their hours ahead of time.