(Updated at 5:15 p.m.) Friday Night Live! — a free concert series held annually in the Town of Herndon — is returning this summer and will be almost back to normal.
After shifting to a virtual season for 2020 due to the pandemic, the series’ 27th season will be in person with 13 concerts between July 2 and Sept. 24.
“We were thrilled with the tremendous support from the community and our sponsors over the past year,” Laura Poindexter, the event’s chair, said in a news release announcing the full series schedule.
The shows will take place on the Herndon Town Green, located behind the town’s municipal building (777 Lynn St.) and adjacent to the Washington & Old Dominion Trail and Herndon Fortnightly Library.
Most of the bands, featuring popular local acts from along the East Coast, play rock ‘n’ roll covers from classic to modern rock.
Here’s the lineup:
- July 2 — Under The Covers
- July 9 — Turtle Recall
- July 16 — The Rockets
- July 23 — Herr Metal + Dr FU
- July 30 — Kristen and the Noise
- Aug. 6 — Social Call
- Aug. 13 — It’s All Good!
- Aug. 20 — JunkFood
- Aug. 27 — All-Star Band
- Sept. 3 — Shake the Room
- Sept. 10 — keeton + 8 Track Jones
- Sept. 27 — The Reflex
- Sept. 24 — Screaming Mönkeys
“Friday Night Live!” delayed its start this season, hoping for COVID-19 cases to decline and rising vaccinations to justify normal operations.
While organizers previously planned with the expectation that some capacity limits would be required, Poindexter tells Reston Now that the concerts will essentially operate like they did prior to the pandemic, since Gov. Ralph Northam ended capacity restrictions on May 28 and eased mask requirements for fully vaccinated people with some exceptions.
“We believe the community is ready for some sense of normalcy,” Poindexter said.
The events will also have food from local restaurants, along with beer, seltzer, and wine for purchase. Proceeds benefit the Herndon Chamber of Commerce, which produces the concerts, with a portion of tip money from alcohol going to Herndon High School alcohol-free party programming.
In addition to providing some summer entertainment, Friday Night Live! is an economic development initiative intended to promote downtown Herndon and encourage both residents and visitors to support local businesses.
After some debate, the Herndon Town Council approved $20,000 in additional funding for the series as part of its fiscal year 2022 budget.
“I am looking forward to the July 2 kickoff! ” Herndon Mayor Sheila Olem said. “After the past year I know I am ready to see so many people I have missed during the COVID pandemic. Our citizens and visitors as well as our local businesses are looking forward to this event as well.”
Photo courtesy Laura B. Poindexter (@laurabcreative). Angela Woolsey contributed to this report.
Fans of Friday Night Live! can breathe a little easier now.
The Herndon Town Council voted on Tuesday (April 27) to approve a budget for fiscal year 2022 that includes an additional $20,000 to support the Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce’s popular free summer concert series, which is now tentatively aiming for a delayed start date of July 2.
“This is one of the things I think we need to build and grow upon,” Councilmember Cesar del Aguila said. “[Friday Night Live’s] got a lot of good things around it. It’s a good foundation to build an even better atmosphere for including more people.”
The vote came after a public hearing with several earnest speeches by supporters of the annual event, from longtime attendees and volunteers to an Ashburn resident whose band has performed on the Town Green as part of the series.
Speakers praised Friday Night Live as an attraction that draws both town residents and outside visitors to downtown Herndon, giving local businesses and restaurants a boost that could be especially critical now after a year of upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s an advertisement for the Town of Herndon that costs much less than the revenue it brings in,” Herndon resident Mindy Thunman said. “Dollars aren’t the only way to measure the value of Friday Night Live. There are so many other intangible ways, the most important one being the sense of community it brings, and you simply can’t put a dollar figure on that.”
After pivoting to an online-only format last year, Friday Night Live organizers hope to bring the event back in person this summer, but their ability to stage the concerts hinges on the Town of Herndon funding support services like police security and public works staff and equipment.
The possibility that Friday Night Live would be unable to go on inspired “an outpouring” of support for the event from citizens, Herndon Town Manager Bill Ashton told the town council on Monday.
According to FNL founder Doug Downer, who spoke at the public hearing, more than 90 letters of support were sent to the town council as part of the community input process for the FY 2022 budget. Councilmember Signe Friedrichs said that they received more comments on the concert series than any other issue she has voted on since joining the council in 2017.
Ashton said that he had approached FNL funding in his proposed FY 2022 budget with the expectation that the town would get federal stimulus funds from the American Rescue Plan Act in May, but it turned out that the money needs to be appropriated by the state and won’t be available until July.
Because the budget was already advertised at $55.7 million, Ashton proposed offsetting the $20,000 increase in expenditures for FNL by decreasing appropriations for a retiree health benefit program that the town ceased using for police employees in 2017 and is in the process of phasing out for all other government workers.
“What we did is we took the money from there to move to Friday Night Live,” Ashton said. “We’re going to monitor the retiree system moving into next fiscal year. Again, if we need to add additional money in there, I can under my authority maneuver up to $100,000 from one account to another.”
The Town of Herndon’s popular free Friday Night Live! summer concert series may have to stop rocking, the event’s chairman fears.
After moving to a streaming format last year, the hoped-for 2021 plan is to return to live shows in July with limited capacity.
However, budgetary challenges may prevent that from happening.
In a letter to supporters, the series’ chairman Laura Poindexter wrote that specific line items would need to be approved in the upcoming Town of Herndon’s fiscal year 2022 budget in order for the concert series to continue.
While the event is produced by the Herndon and Dulles Regional chambers of commerce, organizers work very closely with the town, since it takes place on town property and requires public government services, such as a police presence and public works support for trash pick-up, fencing, and set-up.
With the town preparing to unveil a budget proposal on Thursday (April 1), the concern that these items will not be included stems from town budgetary concerns as well as other Herndon events already being canceled, including the Herndon Festival.
In her letter, Poindexter asks supporters to provide input and not to “delay letting your voice be heard” about how much Friday Night Live! means to the community.
The concert series first began in 1995 and is thought to be the longest-running free outdoor concert series in the D.C.-area. It traditionally starts the first week of May and runs through August, though the current plan for 2021 is to start on Friday, July 2.
Most often, the concert series hosts rock cover bands because they draw the largest crowds, Poindexter notes.
Poindexter tells Reston Now that up to 2,500 people attend the concerts held each Friday night in normal years. Two thirds of them typically come from outside of Herndon.
“It’s an economic development tool, to bring people to downtown Herndon,” she says. “That’s why it was created. I believe downtown businesses benefit greatly and rely on us. This year, after COVID, not to have it would be a shame.”
In a statement on the town’s website, Mayor Sheila Olem alludes to needed cuts due to budget constraints related to the pandemic:
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant, devastating impact on local economies, and Herndon has not been immune. While our sound fiscal practices have buffered the impact somewhat, we are — like jurisdictions across the region — experiencing decreases in most revenue categories. Accordingly, our budget planning is focused on continued provision of the core services our citizens expect and value – public works, public safety and those services that are integral to our infrastructure and day-to-day lives.
While Poindexter and other Friday Night Live! organizers did also send a letter to the town council highlighting their concerns, she says she has not heard one way or another if those needed line items will be included in the proposed budget. She did reiterate that the event has had a long-running, great relationship with the Town of Herndon.
“We just felt it was important for our fans to make their voices heard in relation to the budget,” she said.
Overall, Poindexter says it costs about $10,000 to put on each individual Friday Night Live! event. With about 16 or 17 dates a summer, that’s about $160,000 to $170,000 a season.
“Friday Night Live! is a fantastic community event, but it’s an expensive event to put on,” she said. “There’s a lot of costs involved. Besides town services and security, there’s port-a-potties, there’s music licenses, there’s bands.”
While the event is free to attendees, alcohol and other concessions are sold to bring in revenue.
Poindexter says organizers are planning for 50% capacity. Currently, Virginia allows for 30% capacity at outdoor entertainment venues, but she anticipates that changing to match the governor’s capacity restrictions from last summer.
If capacity is limited to under 50%, it would be hard to the concert series financially worthwhile, Poindexter acknowledges.
All in all, she’s confident that the town will realize how important Friday Night Live! — and other outdoor events like it — is for Herndon businesses and residents this year.
“We think [the series] is so important for not only the downtown businesses, especially the restaurants that really need to have a fantastic summer, but the emotional health and well-being for our fans,” Poindexter said. “We haven’t been able to get out and do things like outdoor events. So, I think that it’s needed on multiple levels.”
Photo courtesy Laura Poindexter
Herndon Rocks’ Friday Night Live! concerts are returning on a virtual platform this summer due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The first virtual concert will take place on July 24 from 7:30-9:30 p.m., and they will return again on July 31 at the same time. The July 24 show will feature 8 Track Jones, and the July 31 show will feature The Reflex.
The organizers are still working on safely getting the event back to the Town Green this summer, according to their website.
To keep people engaged, Herndon Rocks is planning to include giveaways and donation opportunities to help the non-profits and schools normally supported by the concerts, according to their website.
Photo via Herndon Rocks/Facebook
Herndon’s signature outdoor concert series, Friday Night Live!, will kick off its 25th season this Friday. Since the first concert event on June 16, 1995, the series has become the longest-running free outdoor concert series in the DC area.
The season runs every Friday through August 23, with the exception of May 31, the day of the Herndon Festival. The Herndon Town Green, which is behind the town’s municipal building at 777 Lynn Street, will once again come to life with local acts from across the East Coast from 6:30-10:30 p.m. On a typical night, most bands play rock and roll covers. Some nights have themes like country and yacht rock.
The series, which is produced by the Herndon Chamber of Commerce, was created to promote downtown Herndon as a destination to visit and live. Since debuting in 1995, the town has put on 398 shows with over 525,000 fans attending. The title sponsor is Volkswagen Group of America.
“We couldn’t hold this event without our hard-working volunteers and the support of our corporate sponsors,” said Doug Downer, the event’s founder and chairman. “If you’ve never been, come on down to the Town Green on a Friday this summer to experience friends, fun, and a true sense of community.”
Food from local restaurants will be available on site and event organizers will offer beer, seltzer and wine. Proceeds will benefit the Chamber of Commerce and a portion of tip money from alcohol sales will go to Herndon High School’s after-prom and all night alcohol-free grad parties.
Photo by Laura Poindexter