'Some kind of normalcy': Busy First Friday in downtown Raleigh

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- As the band played on at First Friday in Raleigh, it hit like a throwback song to 2019. Like pre-pandemic, revelers were back on downtown streets; Filling up the art galleries; and foodies were out looking for a deal during Restaurant Week.

After nearly two years of COVID, a downturn, a Delta upswing. Now, there's reasons for hope again. Nathan Murray and Lauren Murray used First Friday for their first date night in a long time -- heading to Caffe Luna. It was packed. One of the 23 restaurants participating in Downtown Raleigh Restaurant Week.

"Everybody's been cooped up for so long. You just need to get back to some kind of normalcy and do life," Nathan said.

Lauren added, "We're finally excited to be going out. Seeing people. And just out and about drinking and eating and having fun."

Crosstown in the warehouse district, 311 Gallery was one of dozens hosting First Friday exhibitions. The Your Place at the Table exhibit featured 70 works from 50 artists and the better COVID-19 outlook also helped draw a crowd.

"It really brings a lot of people in. We get a lot of people who may not have come here before because they're passing through," said 311 Gallery owner Lakeshia Reid.

Back on Hargett Street, artists were also selling their works there. Jacob Goodknight's ceramic business suffered through the Delta-surge slowdown. Business is beginning to come back.

"People started closing down and there was a lot less attendance to the shows I signed up for during the Delta surge." Goodknight said. "But it's basically picking up again. So it's been really good."

Despite the cold temperatures, November First Friday was a good sign for downtown Raleigh's resurgence from the pandemic.

While there's only one first Friday a month, Downtown Raleigh Restaurant Week continues through Nov. 14.
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