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It's Friday Night Live!

Town comes out in force for concert series’ premiere.

Hundreds of area residents made their way to downtown Herndon on Friday evening to take advantage of the mild temperatures and clear dusk skies as the town’s free summer concert series, Friday Night Live, returned for its 13th year on May 4.

"I think all this, the [Herndon] Festival, Friday Night Live, all the events, it really has had a positive effect on Herndon and has brought its downtown to the forefront of a lot of local activity," said Doug Downer, founder of the event and chairman of the Friday Night Live committee. "For Herndon residents, when you have all of these great things going on right in your back yard … it just makes it such a special place to live."

Each year Downer runs Friday Night Live, an event organized through the Herndon Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by local businesses, with the help of more than a hundred volunteers, he said. Designed with the intent of attracting commerce for businesses in Herndon, with particular attention paid to the downtown area, the concert series attracts thousands of area residents each year looking to listen to live rock music outdoors.

While this year’s lineup will feature some new bands along with returning favorites, no other major changes were needed to the event, as it has reached a point where concert-goers are regularly and highly satisfied, according to Eileen Curtis, president of the Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce, of which the Herndon Chamber of Commerce is a part.

GIVING AREA BUSINESESS a chance to connect with the community has been the driving force behind its establishment as a regular and free feature of the Town of Herndon, Curtis said.

The event allows for a unique and personal kind of marketing opportunity for Andy Rogers, area manager for the regional American restaurant, Hard Times Café.

"We’re a real community-based type of group, so we love coming out to local events and being a part of what is going on," said Rogers, while taking a break from serving customers at the event last Friday. "It’s good to get out here and see our customers … and Friday Night Live is a great chance to do that."

But the event isn’t just about local businesses. Each year, individual fund-raisers and promotional opportunities allow for concert-goers and participating businesses to donate money and proceeds to programs at area schools and to Herndon-based non-profit organizations like the Herndon Optimist Club and girl’s softball teams, according to Curtis.

Last year, the event succeeded in raising nearly $20,000 for community organizations and educational institutions and programs of the chamber, she added.

FRIDAY NIGHT LIVE has been such a success and a growing attraction over the years due in most part to its "extremely dedicated" corps of volunteers who have, over the course of the last several years, developed a social aspect to their work with the event, according to Downer.

"It just amazes me how many people come out every Friday to help out," he said. "It’s a fun event … but it’s just hard for me to explain. People really love coming out and being a part of it and seeing everyone having a good time."

There is no substitute to the friendships and connections that are made during volunteering with Friday Night Live, said Rhonda Morin, a long-time volunteer who recently returned to the area after five years living out of state. Morin was on hand serving beer backstage at the event for its premiere.

"These are all my friends, it’s just a good group of people who love to have fun with each other," said Morin. "It’s great to be back just helping out."

Even more importantly for Morin than returning to work at the event was what the first night of the concert series has meant to her over the years.

"To me it’s the official kick-off to summer," she said. "It’s a great thing to do in Herndon in the nice weather and it really every year is just a big part of summer."