First Friday

First Friday Participants,

As you know, the Downtown Lakeland Partnership (DLP) closed its doors today. The Lakeland Downtown Development Authority (LDDA) has officially adopted the First Friday event.

To be clear, the LDDA did not purchase the event. No money exchanged hands. We are aware that some of you were members or annual subscribers who paid for participation in First Friday events past February. We will contact you directly with how we will proceed, but understand – the LDDA did not receive a prorated amount of your subscription. We received no funds from DLP.

After careful analysis, we determined that charges to you all (subscribers or members)  for First Friday varied widely. DLP Membership rates were originally designed to support the day to day work of the organization. Then, at some point, the memberships were used to sell access to First Friday.  As the events became larger – in both public attendance and the number of streets closed – the rates charged to participants did not change though the costs to produce the event continued to rise.

We also did not like the procedure for signing up. Requiring folks who paid for the year to register each month is cumbersome for both sides. Changing locations each month for annual participants is a waste of everyone’s time. And though the “rules of the road” were posted on the web site, I can almost guarantee that the actual workers of the booths at the event have never revisited them in any meaningful way.

The results of the analysis has led us to the following changes:

The Process:
Step 1:
Those who wish to set up at First Friday will first fill out a short application form asking basic information about your business. On this form you will also identify your level of participation – Full Time, Full Time Premium, Part Time, Part Time Premium, One Time, One Time Premium, and general desired location. (These are explained below)
Step 2:
Once we receive your application – staff will:
• Assign locations based on the requests in the application
• Email you the First Friday Exhibitor agreement for you to fill out and sign, AND an invoice for the amount based on your level of participation. Invoices can be paid with a credit card or you can mail in a check.
Step 3:
Once we receive the payment and the signed agreement (it will be an online HELLO SIGN document), you will be cleared to come to the event.

Participation Levels:
Full time exhibitors will have an assigned space. We will provide you with a map and setup/breakdown instructions for you to print and keep for your staff. You will not need to tell us if you are coming or not each month, though it would be helpful to inform us via email or text if you plan to skip a month. We will also take our own attendance at each event based on the map layout.

Part time exhibitors pay for 4 months and can choose any 4 months in the 12-month period. The months can be, but do not have to be, consecutive. The space assignment will be determined at the time you apply for your first month of attendance only. We will do our best to put you in the same spot for all 4 months, but it is not guaranteed. A Full Time Exhibitor will have priority over part time agreements. If you preselect your 4 months at the time you apply we will pencil you in that location for all of those months. Otherwise, you will have to contact us for placement on the months you plan to participate. We will have a short online form for that.

One Time Exhibitors will receive the agreement and it will be valid for attendance anytime in the next 12 months. Once we have your agreement on file you need only request a space through the online form and pay the invoice each time you choose to attend in the 12-month period. If after attending one time you decide you’d like to sign up as part time or full time, we will credit your $100 towards that agreement.

The Costs:
Because we do not own the real estate, we don’t not technically “rent” you a space. Instead the cost to you is a share of the event cost. We literally call it “Shared Event Costs” (SEC)

The SECs are as follows:

Full Time – $550 per 12 months
Full Time, Premium – $750 per 12 months

Part Time – $185 per 12 months for attendance at 4 events.
Part Time, Premium – $250 per 12 months for attendance at 4 events.

One Time – $100, attendance at one event
One Time – $125, attendance at one event in a premium location

Because we have so many requests for space for non-profits, we are not able to provide complimentary attendance at the event for non-profits. It kills the entire model.

On a personal note, I started First Friday 15 years ago with 2 other merchants in Downtown Lakeland. It is near and dear to my heart and I want it to be a great experience for everyone.

The event has continued to grow each year. The LDDA Board wants a safe and enjoyable event for participants and patrons. To do that we have to change some of the management on the ground to include more staff at barricades.
As I said in the beginning, I am aware that many of you have “months left” on your subscriptions. I am still trying to sift through that data. Each of your circumstances is different. I cannot address that here. I will be contacting you.

Regardless of what your status is, everyone needs to fill out the application with the intended participation level. The application does not bind you. But if you have a preferred location or want one, you need to secure it.

I expect many of you to contact me. Phone calls will be difficult as they are unscheduled and I cannot necessarily commit to discussions. Emails are best, or at least emails that request a time certain to schedule a call.

Thank you all for your patience as we move through this transition.

Julie Townsend, Executive Director, Lakeland Downtown Development Authority – cell 863.687.8910

Click Here to go the the exhibitor Application and to see a sample of the contents of the exhibitor agreement.