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Music, market draw visitors to new Downtown Live! in Longview

By Charlotte Stewart
March 23, 2012 at 10 p.m.

Downtown's Heritage Plaza took on a festival atmosphere Friday evening as a couple of hundred people enjoyed the first of a four-week Downtown Live! concert series.

Some relaxed in folding chairs while enjoying picture-perfect weather. Some tapped a foot while listening to the Darby Warren Project and enjoying a sip of beer or wine. And many found friends with whom to enjoy the evening.

"This is the first one I've ever been to," said Hallsville resident Joe Hunt, noting the downtown Friday events had been at lunchtime in the past. "If I had come on my lunch hour, I would have barely gotten here before it was time to turn around and head back to work."

When a friend asked him to meet her at Heritage Park "for a drink and some groovin,' " he said he thought they'd need to bring the drink.

"Nope. She drinks wine, I drink beer, the kid drinks Coke, and they've got it covered over there," he said, pointing to the covered stand where Gerard Cace of Johnny's Seafood and Steak House was selling libations adult and softer.

Friday's event was somewhat historic, being the first to take advantage of a city ordinance passed late last year allowing the sale of alcoholic beverages in the downtown park.

Cace said sales were brisk - and 20 percent of the take was going to downtown development.

Other vendors also set up around the plaza for the Downtown Market.

Many folks oohed and aahed, admiring the intricate designs of stained-glass windows made by Terri Stokes of Sun Stations. Stokes said she had been making the works of art for about a year and a half and decided to open a shop "because it was taking over my house."

She said Margie Harris at Longview Tourism told her about Friday's event, and encouraged her to sell her wares on the plaza. There also were vendors selling jewelry, specialty foods and outdoor furniture.

Beth James of downtown's Decorating Etc. said she was delighted to see events such as Friday's that are promoting downtown - and bringing folks to the area. She also admitted to "loving the band" and having a relaxing evening.

"I think this is the right direction (promoting downtown)," she said.

Friends of the four-legged variety also were out and about the plaza, as one child after another ran up to plead to one dog owner or another, "Can I pet him?"

Jo Lee of Longview was one of the people at Friday's event with her dog, who was heavily laden with attention from children.

"I'm just out enjoying a beautiful day, looking at the arts and crafts, hearing nice music and advertising for the Great Texas Balloon Race," Lee said while looking down at the logo on the polo shirt she was wearing.

Organizers said they were pleased with their first Friday evening show and were considering suggestions from attendees to add food, lengthen the event and other ideas. One attendee said the only thing lacking to complete the family friendly event was something for children.

"They need someone out here painting faces or something for the kids," said Jenni Skelton of Lakeport. "Even passing out chalk for sidewalk drawings, or something."

The Friday evening event will continue through April 20, except on Good Friday, April 6. The market begins at 4 p.m., and music starts at 5 p.m.



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