First Fridays Ypsi's 10th year features themes ranging from spring blooms to "Santarchy vs. Krampus"

First Fridays Ypsilanti will return this week for its 10th year with new leadership and monthly themes that range from "Ypsi in Bloom" to "Santarchy vs. Krampus."

First Fridays Ypsilanti was created 10 years ago with a mission to connect local artists with local businesses. The nonprofit hosts monthly events and invites local businesses to host arts-related happenings on the first Friday of each month from April through December.

First Fridays' new president is Malissa Gillett, owner of Betty Green Salon in downtown Ypsilanti. Gillett has volunteered with First Fridays since it was established. She says she's not planning to make any big changes while she settles into her new role, but she has some plans for the near future that include strengthening ties with businesses on West Cross Street and bringing in more visitors from out of town. Gillett says another change this year is a focus on Depot Town. Ypsi Pride will be focused in that area, and there will be a makers market at the Freighthouse in Depot Town.

"I think what we're trying to do is establish ourselves as well as we can for our 10th anniversary and pump things up to pre-pandemic levels," Gillett says. "And it's always a nice thing for downtowns to get that exposure and have people from outside of the city come in and enjoy what we have to offer. We have great restaurants and unique artists and stores. We have a lot to offer."

This year's programming kicks off Friday with the theme "Ypsilanti in Bloom." May's theme is "Mental Health Awareness."

"During the pandemic, mental health became a huge topic of conversation, and so we're trying to bring awareness to the fact that we're all struggling a bit," Gillett says.

A full list of monthly topics is available at the First Fridays website. Businesses are free to host events that don't fit the monthly theme, however.

Business owners who want to host First Friday events must submit their information by the 20th of the month before the month they want to host the event. They can sign up to be added to the First Fridays map here. Gillett says First Fridays is always in need of more volunteers to help participants with wayfinding or to hand out posters and maps. Anyone interested in volunteering can sign up here.

Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.
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