*See slideshow below*
Warburton Avenue in Hastings looked like a scene from a movie Friday--and the crowds of people could well have been actors, paid to smile and laugh for four hours straight.
From 5 - 9 p.m. last night, downtown Hastings was closed off to traffic, as local vendors and food purveyors took to the streets. Hamburgers were flipped on massive grills outside the firehouse and skewered chicken was available on the south end of Warburton.
But what made the most recent Town Square/Spring Thing-themed Friday Night Live stand out was that it catered to residents of all ages.
"This is probably the biggest turnout we've had," Mayor Peter Swiderski said, rushing to make his 8 o'clock reservation at Juniper. "What I love post about Friday Night Live" is that it gets everyone out mixing together--and tonight's particularly successful because it appeals to everyone, old and young."
Devised last year, Friday Night Live was the brainchild of village trustee Meg Walker. Walker has been the predominant organizer of the event since its conception, but she defers all the credit for last night's extravaganza to resident Liz Liebeskind.
"The idea was to turn Hastings into a true town square," Walker said. "It's a place where people can come out and mix and mingle, listen to music, eat outside, lounge in outdoor seating, catch a film--they've even installed a fountain. This is how Hastings should be!"
Liebeskind is the director of local arts organization 12 Miles North, a unique cultural arts group that specializes in supporting "adventurous and rich artistic diversity," in a variety of media.
Last night's event also featured It Takes a Village Productions' short film "The Jacket," which was written, directed, and acted all by Rivertowns residents.
Although "The Jacket" has shown at a variety of prestigious film festivals, including Kent Connecticut and The Berkshires, writer and director Matt Roshkow said it was especially gratifying to show it here in his home town.
"We've gotten such positive feedback from the community," Roshkow said. The film features a woman's slow realization of the tenuousness of her life after her husband loses his job. "We've gotten so many letters from fathers in this community for whom the film strikes an emotional chord--it feels amazing to know we're affecting people this way."
Friday night's long list of entertainment also included the music of Milton a New York City-based band and the Raya Brass Band, based out of Brooklyn. And when dusk finally settled over the village, fire show performers Hubris took the stage, twirling, juggling and breathing impressive flames.
Besides providing food and entertainment to Hastings residents, Friday Night Live is also intended as an opportunity to promote local business owners. Last night's "Best of Hastings," persuasive speaking contest did just that.
Community members signed up for 30-seconds at the microphone to describe the item or service sold in Hastings they believe to be the best in the village.
Cole Armacost, son of trustee Nicola Armacost, won with his extemporaneous plug for Chelsea's gourmet scented pencils.
But other items highlighted included: Antoinette's lasagnas, Tony's Steak and Seafood Chorizo Sandwich, Bauer Optical's stellar service, hats from Chelseas Closet.
And, "My Best of Hastings is definitely a cocktail from Rainwater Grill. It's delicious and effective too," Mayor Swiderski said during his 30 seconds at the mike.