Smile Politely

First Fridays promotes all of Urbana

Imbibe Urbana clearly has a crush on everything Urbana. The business, which promotes Urbana art, businesses, and people, has hosted a few events so far, including an evening of yoga, wine, and partying and a scavenger hunt of downtown Urbana. Its latest project — First Fridays — seeks to make Urbana a monthly destination by showcasing businesses and experiences you can’t find anywhere else.

The main forces behind Imbibe Urbana are Annie Adams and Kristin Walters, but Walters said the two of them don’t like to highlight that fact.

“On social media, Imbibe is kind of like a persona. She is the most star-struck Urbana resident who highlights the most positive, quirky, and unusual aspects of Urbana,” said Walters.

Walters said that the idea for First Fridays originated from her hometown. “Where I grew up, in Charlottesville, Virginia, there was an event called Fridays at Five. It was an occasion for a ton of people to come together in the historic downtown area. It didn’t promote a specific kind of art or culture; it was just a chance for people to say, ‘hey, look at all the cool things that happen here.’ I wanted to create that kind of experience for Urbana.”

First Fridays will take place monthly in downtown Urbana. The purpose of the event, according to Walters, is to organize Urbana creative thinkers so they can work toward a specific monthly goal.

“People might not come to Urbana from Champaign or Savoy for one-off experiences like a wine tasting or an art opening,” she pointed out. First Fridays offer visitors and Urbana residents the chance to walk through downtown Urbana and sample a range of the creative ideas, events, and promotions that Urbana has to offer all at once.

The inaugural First Friday takes place on September 2 from 4:30 – 11 p.m. One of the highlights will be a showcase of Lumen Events, an event-planning and design company. “Lumen’s office isn’t necessarily geared toward walk-in clients,” said Kristin, “so people might not even know it’s there. But it’s a beautiful space.” Lumen will offer tours and cocktails for First Friday.

Library House, a cozy venue for local music curated by Isaac Arms, will also be on the First Friday circuit. Arms is a staple of the C-U music scene and the man behind Heirship Records. First Friday will be a chance to check out some of the music that happens at Library House.

For Walters, the desire to highlight and celebrate Urbana emerges from her love of the community. “I’ve been meeting tons of young professionals and creatives who have recently bought homes in Urbana,” said Walters. “That gives this place a lot of energy. People are making the decision to stay here and invest in where they live, which makes Urbana a place that places huge value on local experiences, local agriculture, local shopping.” 

That environment has made Urbana a great place to try something new, like a business or a creative project, Walters pointed out. “More so than in Champaign, which is a little more built-up, it’s easy to take risks in Urbana,” said Walters. “I’ve noticed that a lot of Urbana business owners start up from a feeling of passion rather than from evidence that they will immediately succeed. I find passion-driven businesses very authentic; they are very attractive to me.”

In addition to First Fridays, Imbibe Urbana will continue its mission of promoting local social culture by collaborating with the movers and shakers of Urbana life.

“With First Fridays, we feel like we’re promoting all of Urbana,” said Walters, “and that gives us space to work on other ideas throughout the month. We have what we hope are some really fun, experimental projects on the horizon.” 

Stay tuned.

First Fridays kick off on Friday, September 2nd from 4:30 – 11 p.m. in downtown Urbana. Imbibe Urbana is still looking for participants; businesses, artists, and other creators can contact Imbibe by emailing <[email protected]>.

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