Grab your dancing shoes, bring your appetite and plan to spend your nights and days downtown this weekend.
Starting as early as 6 a.m. Friday morning, vendors will be descending upon the 300 block of State Street and the 400 block of East Grand Avenue for the 19th annual Celebrate Beloit Weekend. The event will feature more than 120 different businesses and vendors. And more than 60 volunteers will be helping serve up the weekend-long fun.
The weekend’s events kick off early Friday with a sidewalk sale from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Downtown businesses, area retailers and even vendors from the farmers market will be offering sales and specials, said Kathleen Braatz, executive director for the Downtown Beloit Association.
“There’s great sales to be had all along the way,” she said. “All the great retailers from downtown get to take advantage of this whatever way they can. Some of them just spill out on the side walks. Some of them come in down to the 300 block onto the street ... (You’ll find everything) from bakeries to produce to great sale items. ”
Then if you get a little hungry after shopping, stop by the First National Bank Plaza for the Fridays in the Park Concert Series from 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m. Brother K will serenade you with blues tunes while Otha’s Ribs will tantalize your taste buds with a $6 lunch.
“(Otha’s Ribs) always does something fabulous,” said Braatz. “So people are always thrilled. He’ll also be selling dinners during Street Dance.”
The highlight of the weekend will be the Street Dance on Friday, which features live music and local eats. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $1 for children ages 4-11. Admission is free for kids younger than 4 years old.
Dave Potter & the Alley Kings will kick off the night at the Street Dance, playing local blues from 5:45 p.m. - 7:45 p.m. Then, starting at 8 p.m., Milwaukee-based Eddie Butts Band will play funk, soul and rhythm and blues.
“We shifted in 2005 into the R&B genre because the hole hadn’t been filled musically, and it’s great for all generations,” Braatz said. “It’s a great way to lock it in, and everyone knows what they’re going to get.”
There will also be a beer and wine tent as well as food available for purchase from Tacos Gonzalez, Otha’s Ribs, Artie B’s Chicago Style Hot Dogs and more.
“It is family-friendly and has a great casual neighborhood feel,” said Braatz. “Lots of friends find each other at Street Dance ... We always hear how people look forward to it each year to come down and see each other. This makes it a natural fit for high school reunions for each year. This trend continues to grow, as the reunions have a great party already planned to gather and enjoy.”
The sidewalk sales will resume Saturday at 8 a.m., running until 2 p.m. and blending with the farmers market, which goes from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Then, from 9 a.m. - 2p.m., Culver’s will offer frozen custard coupled with entertainment provided by Papa Murphy and Scoopie.
Between 18,000 - 20,000 people attend Celebrate Beloit Weekend each year, said Braatz. The Street Dance is also the Downtown Beloit Association’s biggest fundraiser. Proceeds from admission to Street Dances as well as sales from the beer and wine tent will go toward supporting downtown revitalization efforts, said Braatz. Last year, the association raised more than $15,000.
The weekend is a celebration of a number of things, including the recent Main Street Award the city won, said Braatz.
“It gives us a chance to show off all that’s happened,” she said. “It’s not specifically the downtown association — it’s celebrating all of the businesses and having people take notice of their downtown. (It’s about celebrating) all of the businesses here — the botique shops, retail shops, restaurants — that are thriving right now in difficult economic times. They have been running strong through challenging times, through the road construction. They’ve really done a beautiful job of coming through it and shining.”