Summer tunes come to Taylor Pavilion

Friday Night Live will return to Old Town Winchester today for a beach-themed evening of food, drink and live music performances: a prelude to the first official day of summer.

This will be the third year Friday Night Live will enliven the streets of Old Town but the first year it’ll be able to take advantage of the Taylor Pavilion. The outdoor venue was finished last August as part of the Taylor Hotel redevelopment project, and Downtown Manager Jennifer Bell said this will be the first major event held at the pavilion.

Virginia Blood Services is sponsoring the events, and attendees have the opportunity to score free tickets to Friday Night Live by dropping by their office on West Cork Street to donate a pint of blood. Otherwise, attendees can purchase tickets in advance for $5 up until the morning of the event or at the door for $10.

Proceeds from beverage purchases at the cordoned-off beer and wine area will go to Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Richmond-based reggae rock fusion group Reckless Island will take the Taylor Pavilion at 5 p.m. to start the night off, followed by a local favorite, Jimmy Buffet tribute group the Caribbean Sunset Band at 7.

Outside the live music at the pavilion, various street performers and musicians will offer family entertainment along the Loudoun Street Pedestrian Mall, including tours of the historic district. Local artists and craftsmen will provide pieces for sale through the Shenandoah Arts Council and the Winchester Art Market.

Dario Savarese, president of hosting company Full Circle Marketing, compared the event’s ambiance to that of the Key West boardwalk. Locals and visitors alike will be able to kick back their flip flops with their favorite summer cooler in hand to enjoy beachy rock and the best downtown Winchester has to offer.

“It’s just a good opportunity for our community,” Savarese said.

Friday Night Live will return to Old Town Winchester twice this summer with different acts. On July 17, Harrisonburg alternative group Swell Daze and Middletown headliner Robbie Limon Band will give the festivities some classic rock flair. On Aug. 21, Shenandoah group Alex Hilton Band and Nashville artist Thom Shepherd will bring some country twang to the pavilion.

Bell said the Friday Night Live events feature genres popular among locals, while jazz and swing come to Old Town in other events like the Sunday concert series. They’ve been a hit, attracting 2,000 to 3,000 residents and visitors each time.

“We really wanted to try a variety of different types of entertainment that people would enjoy,” she said.

Savarese said it’s important to keep the content fresh and engaging so visitors will return for different experiences.

“We’re always trying to bring in new entertainment … most of the acts are new to Winchester or new to the events,” he said.

For the purpose of getting the renovated Old Town walking mall revving, Bell said Friday Night Live is a model of success.

“I’m really hoping it becomes a standard community event that people look forward to on Friday night,” she said. “I think it’ll continue to contribute to the dynamic nature of downtown.”

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