Friday Night Live! May 4, 2018, produced by the Herndon Chamber of Commerce (file photo).
Photo by Mercia Hobson.
A 2021 kick-off date for the return of Friday Night Live!, billed as "DC-area's Best Free Outdoor Concert Series Every Friday, May through August on the Herndon Town Green," is threatened and may not happen. The event is produced by the Herndon Chamber of Commerce under the umbrella of the Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Since the first Friday Night Live! in 1995, the Town of Herndon has supported the music series through in-kind donations of Town Police presence and support by the Town Department of Public Works, according to Mayor Sheila Olem.
Laura B. Poindexter, Chairman, Friday Night Live! wrote in a letter, "Your Input Needed: Town of Herndon Budget," posted on the event's website, that both departments have budget line items for the support that have to be approved every year in the Town budget process.
"We cannot hold Friday Night Live! without the incredible support we have received from the Town of Herndon in the past...The Town Council is currently in the midst of budget discussion that will affect WHETHER we will be able to hold FNL this year," she said.
Poindexter urged Town of Herndon fans to watch past budget discussions at https://www.herndon-va.gov/government/mayor-town-council/agendas-minutes-webcasts, sign up to speak at the upcoming public hearings to be held on April 13 and April 27, and email the Town Council through the Town Clerk at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other businesses and groups have supported the Chamber in their production, including Volkswagen Group of America and Northwest Federal Credit Union.
IN AN INTERVIEW with the Connection, Poindexter emphasized that the weekly summer music series of rock bands is a Chamber event, created by the Chamber, not the Town as an economic driver for downtown Herndon businesses - to draw people who would not usually visit. "We feel it is a win-win for the town, for the businesses, for the residents, and for the Chamber, but it is not a town event," Poindexter said.
Poindexter added that the production of Friday Night Live! aligns with the Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce mission statement. At issue, according to Poindexter, is that organizers continue to hear mention of Friday Night Live! at Town Council meetings and planning sessions in regard to establishing a multicultural board.
"We applaud the Town Council's desire to ensure diversity across the Town's programs and events. To that end, we are willing to sit down with any organization that wishes to produce a multicultural event in Town to share the organizational knowledge we have gained through 26 years of experience...However, we have no plans or desire to alter the type of music we play or the way our event is run," wrote Poindexter, Doug Downer, Founder of Friday Night Live!, and Joe Martin, Interim President & CEO Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce in a letter dated March 12 to Town of Herndon Mayor Sheila Olem and Herndon Town Councilmembers. The Connection received a copy of the letter.
Vice Mayor Cesar del Aguila said, "We will take this into consideration as we prioritize our budget."
MAYOR OLEM responded, saying that Friday Night Live! positively impacted the businesses downtown over 26 years. "(It) is crucial now more than ever as we all work to help our downtown businesses recover from a devastating financial year," Olem said. She added that if Governor Northam relaxes the number of individuals attending an event such as Friday Night Live! will provide a much-needed boost to businesses.
Poindexter said that Friday Night Live! has given over $300,000 in cash donations to organizations in the Town. It was the largest cash contributor to the Herndon High School's All Night Grad Party, after prom events, Herndon Woman's Club, Herndon Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 64, and Optimist Club of Herndon.