Over 20 years, First Friday turns downtown Las Vegas into creative nexus – KNPR

KNPR, Oct 07, 2022 by Mike Prevatt


Twenty years ago, they tried something pretty audacious for downtown Las Vegas.

They put on the very first First Friday, a one-night carnival of food and entertainment centered on art in the area of Charleston Boulevard and Main Street.

It was audacious in 2002 because back then, the Arts District was nothing like it is today. It was mishmash of used furniture stores, curio shops, rebuilt carburetor shops and art galleries.

But what started as a small-scale event centered on art galleries has grown into a bona fide cultural institution. Over those 20 years, First Friday has turned downtown into a creative nexus and introduced thousands of local artists and bands to suburban Las Vegas.

It has also helped the Arts District become one of the hottest spots in the valley.

(Right, Brian Paco Alvarez shows his First Friday logo tattoo.)

“It was a ragtag group of people, maybe 300 of us,” Alvarez said. “There were no sidewalks, there was no lighting.”

He said the Arts District is night and day compared to what it is today.

“It’s gentrified, it’s insane to see what the Arts District became.”

First Friday has lasted as long as it has because “it was ours,” Alvarez said. That it belongs to the community.

“I think it’s finally gotten its sea legs today,” he said. “I can just walk there from my house”

Fagan joined the First Friday Foundation about 11 years ago. She, for the most part, grew up in Las Vegas, but wasn’t aware of the event.

“I remember walking down that street,” she said of her first event. “And this is when the magic happened. It was all put together and all the artists that came out, music stages and everything, and I walked down Casino Center, because it was on both sides of the street at that time.  I stood and I was in my own personal bubble that happens a lot for me at First Friday, just watching the magic taking place. … I said, ‘I don’t know what this is. And I don’t know what my part is in this, but I know I want to be a part of it.’”

The event went from hundreds to thousands, and now they see about 15,000 to 20,000 attendees.

“But there’s so many people who have still never experienced First Friday yet, which is exciting,” she said.

Listen to the interview above for more. Visit the First Friday website for more information on Friday’s event.

And, if you missed us last time, KNPR will have a booth at First Friday from 5 to 11 p.m. We’ll be offering merch such as tote bags, hoodies, mugs, pints and NPR shirts. There will also be chances to win a $25 member reward certificate, merch discounts and more. 


Corey Fagan, executive director, First Friday Foundation; Brian Paco Alvarez, anthropologist and cultural entrepreneur

Downtown Las Vegas Recognized in Best of Las Vegas 2022!

The results are in and Downtown Vegas Alliance members who are Best of Las Vegas winners!  

We are so proud that the Las Vegas Review Journal and its readers have recognized these amazing businesses.


Art Houz Theaters

  • Silver Best Movie Theater
  • Gold Best Unique Dining Experience

Boyd Gaming

  • Silver Best Bingo
  • Silver Best Player’s/Loyalty Club
  • Bronze Best Video Poker
  • Silver Best Local’s Casino
  • Silver Best Bowling

California Hotel & Casino

  • Silver Best Downtown Slots
  • Silver Best Downtown Table Games

Circa Resort & Casino

  • Bronze Best Hotel View
  • Bronze Best Concierge Service
  • Bronze Best High Limit Room
  • Silver Best Hotel Rooms/Suites

Stadium Swim at Circa Resort & Casino

  • Gold Best Downtown Hotel Pool

Circa Millions/Circa Survivor

  • Bronze Best Football Contest

Downtown Grand Hotel & Casino

  • Silver Best Downtown Hotel Pool
  • Bronze Best Downtown Slots
  • Bronze Best Downtown Table Games

El Cortez Hotel & Casino

  • Gold Best Downtown Hotel
  • Gold Best Downtown Table Games
  • Gold Best Downtown Slots
  • Silver Best Table Games
  • Gold Best Valet
  • Silver Best Paying Slots
  • Bronze Best Local’s Casino
  • Gold Best Happy Hour

Freed’s Bakery

  • Gold Best Bakery
  • Gold Best Cupcakes
  • Bronze Best Cookies
  • Bronze Best Dessert

Fremont Hotel & Casino

  • Bronze Best Downtown Hotel

Golden Nugget Las Vegas

  • Bronze Best Downtown Hotel Pool

Las Vegas Rescue Mission Annual Golf Tournament

  • Silver Best Charity Event

Oscar’s Steakhouse

  • Silver Best Steakhouse


  • Silver Best Downtown Hotel,
  • Bronze Best Bingo

SlotZilla Zipline

  • Silver Best Amusement Ride

The Sand Dollar Downtown

  • Gold Best Downtown Bar
  • Gold Best Specialty Cocktails
  • Silver Best Place to Play Pool

Happy Holidays from the DVA


As 2022 draws to a close, I wanted to take the time to thank you for your continued support of the Downtown Vegas Alliance. It has been a year of rebuilding for our business community, and it finally feels like we are getting back to pre-pandemic levels.

Even though business is back on track, our lives and how we do business are forever changed. Compassionand Purpose have been woven into how we operate on a daily basis. While we have adapted to a remote work environment, when we get together, our conversations seem much more Meaningful. I believe that this new Culture will drive growth in downtown Las Vegas and create new Opportunities for business owners, stakeholders and residents. I know that the Downtown Vegas Alliance will be a big part of this changed environment and resulting momentum.

Though it has taken some time, we are excited to relaunch our PLAYcation campaign to help drive business to DVA members. And, we will soon start recruiting small minority-owned businesses for our Small Business Incubation Program. Both of these efforts exemplify the innovative spirit and thought leadership for which the DVA is known.

Our commitment to our members has never been stronger. Stay tuned for details about exclusive membership events, informational webinars and our Successes and Insights forums that we are planning throughout 2023. Together, we are making downtown the best place to work, live and play!

May your holidays be filled with the love and warmth of family and friends.  I look forward to seeing you and making some great memories in 2023!