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Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Parking and security changes are coming to this year's Friday Night Live series in Waukesha

By Jim Riccioli, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel,


WAUKESHA - As the 18th Friday Night Live season opens for what organizers hope will be a surprise-free series, this year will add increased security measures to the popular downtown event.

There will be no unauthorized vehicles working their way through the downtown streets during the June-through-August weekly festival series. Officials can be all but certain of that, thanks to safety equipment acquired by the city to make future parades and street events safer.

The first shipment of the Modular Vehicle Barrier barricades arrived in time for the city's Memorial Day parade and, by extension, the June 3 opening day for Friday Night Live, the Waukesha Downtown Business Association-sponsored festival that runs weekly this year (except for July 1) through Sept. 2.

Waukesha police did not immediately indicate the precise deployment of the vehicle-disabling barricades, but they were expected to be at points similar to the wooden barricades from past FNL events — including on West Broadway and Clinton Street, West Main Street both at Barstow Street and West Avenue, Grand Avenue near South Street and Gaspar Street near South Street.

The arrangement carries with it one important change: No vehicles will be allowed to remain parked within Friday Night Live's event space.

"The biggest thing that will be different for people is that there will be no parking on Main Street after 5 o'clock and that (police) are going to towany vehicles left there," said Norm Bruce, owner of Martha Merrell's Bookstore and a leader in the Waukesha DBA.

Other aspects of Friday Night Live, which began in 2004, remain largely unchanged.

There will again be nine stages, one each outside Crush Wine Bar, Guitar for Life Café and BrewCade, Hannon's Fine Foods and Cocktails, Magellan's, Martha Merrell's Bookstore, Mia's Italian Cuisine, People's Park, the Salty Toad and the Waukesha Civic Theatre.

Bruce said his stage, like the others downtown, will see more new acts — the result of older performers retiring about the same time as the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, which also stymied what would've have been the 16th year of FNL in 2020.

But, aside from the new acts, what he personally he looks forward to seeing is people.

"That's part of what it's about, getting people out and about downtown," he said. "And raising the level of awareness of what we have to offer. People kind of get out of the habit, so we have to re-establish the habit of coming down on Friday night."

It seems like people are interested in returning to such routines, Bruce added, based on attendance at the city's farmers market, which is also sponsored by the downtown business association.

"We've really had much larger crowds than what we've had," Bruce said. "People are just wanting to get out and about."

Friday Night Live, which runs from 6:30 to 9 p.m. each week, also features night-time dining and shopping, though the live music acts are the biggest drawing point. For a complete lineup of the acts and the stage locations, see the Waukesha DBA's event-specific page.

Updates can also be found on the Waukesha Friday Night Live Facebook page.

Contact Jim Riccioli at (262) 446-6635 or Follow him on Twitter at @jariccioli.

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