First Fairground Fridays of 2015 draws almost 900 for summer fun in Winston-Salem

First Fairground Fridays of 2015 draws almost 900 for summer fun in Winston-Salem
June 18
00:00 2015

This first of this summer’s Fairground Fridays drew a large crowd of teens to the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds on Friday, June 12.

The event drew 866 teens to the fairgrounds that evening. Fairground Fridays is the Winston-Salem Recreation and Parks current attempt to give teens something to due on Friday nights during the summer.

The music that pumped through speakers on the outside stage was occasionally interrupted by radio and TV personality Busta Brown, the emcee of the event, holding karaoke and dance contests. Teens looking to go inside could go into the Fairground’s Education Building, where there was a selection of free play arcade games, a fully stocked concession stand and restrooms.

“Teenagers can come and have fun, a safe place to just hang out with their peers, and that’s all teenagers want to do: hang out, talk, dance a little bit, have fun, but knowing that when their parents drop them off, that their parents know that their child will still be safe when they come and pick them back up,” said Emerald Bowman, the Recreation and Parks community educator who organizes the event.

Safety is prime concern. Whether teens take advantage of the ample free parking there or are dropped off, the first thing they see is a row of police cars along the parking lot that belong to the nearly dozen off-duty police officers there. Then they’re wanded by staff from Show Pros before being allowed into the fairgrounds, where a number of Recreation and Parks staff and volunteers are making sure things go smoothly. Bowman said the security set-up works, and there wasn’t a single incident last year.

Fairground Fridays was first held last year from late June through the end of July, drawing more than 700 teens a night and nearly 1000 in attendance for the final session. Bowman credited social media and a great marketing campaign for the large crowds.

This year the event will be held every Friday through Aug. 7. The Fairgrounds will host the National Black Theatre Festival’s Teentastic Weekend from Aug. 6 through 8 with a fashion show and numerous performances, including rapper K Camp on Aug. 8.

Fairground Fridays is the latest in a line of teen summer events. In 2007, after complaints of teens hanging around downtown late at night after the Friday night summer Downtown Jazz concerts, the City of Winston-Salem started The Drop at Corpening Plaza. While teens came out in droves, there were security problems there, and it was later moved to the fairgrounds.

In 2008, Recreation and Parks took over the Friday night summer offerings with theMix, an indoor event at Hanes Hosiery Recreation Center featuring a variety of activities, including music and video games. Parents would drop off their children, who had to be registered to gain entrance. TheMix averaged 300 teens a night its first summer and would continue for several years. Then the venue switched to Winston Square Park for music in the park events before Fairground Fridays began in 2014.

Recreation and Parks director Tim Grant said since teens are always changing, so to must the events catered to them. At the core, it’s still providing a place for them to hang out with their friends.

“It’s simple, but it works,” said Grant.

Parents are allowed to come into the fairgrounds with their teens. Most sat at picnic tables outside and let their children do their thing. One was Felicia Brinson. It was her first time at Fairground Fridays. She took two of her children there to perform with Greater Vision Dance Complex, a nonprofit that teaches dance. She said she liked the event and planned to bring them back regularly.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for everyone to come, socialize and eat a little bit and watch the entertainment, so I think it’s great,” she said.

It was also a hit with the teens.

“It’s alright so far; there’s a lot of girls,” said one young man with a smile who had just arrived there for the first time.
Ranautica Taylor, 13, attended Fairgrounds Fridays last year. She said she enjoyed hanging out with her friends and meeting new people there. She said she especially enjoyed the contests held there.

“It brings everyone together and gives them something to do,” she said.

One attraction from last year’s event, an indoor skate park, is absent this year. The City is currently planning to open a permanent outdoor skate park on fairgrounds property. Tentative plans are for it to be finished and open in August.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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