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Community First Saturday was set up along the Northbank Riverwalk and in the Hogan Street cul-de-sac in 2013 (above) before moving last year to the JAX Chamber parking lot along East Bay Street.
Jax Daily Record Friday, Sep. 19, 201412:00 PM EST

Community First Saturday sponsors end three-year commitment to Downtown a year early

by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

When Community First Saturday was introduced in August 2012, it was pitched as a three-year commitment to Downtown.

Wally Lee, who was president of JAX Chamber at the time, said the event would support one of the key components of Downtown development identified by the chamber: Bringing more festivals and events to the urban core.

“This is what progress looks like,” Mayor Alvin Brown said then. “The goal is to bring people together to explore and enjoy Downtown.”

Community First President and CEO John Hirabayashi said in 2012 the inaugural season was the first in a three-year commitment in Downtown.

Two years later, the festival is leaving its urban core base and will travel around North Florida.

“We get a lot of feedback,” said Roger Rassman, Community First vice president of marketing. “One of the things we heard was that it would be nice if it was in different locations.”

For the 2014 season opener Oct. 6, Community First Saturday will be in a corn maze at Sykes and Cooper Farms in Elkton, southwest of St. Augustine. The first 500 Community First members will be admitted free. General admission is $9.

Community First has 17 branches in Clay, Duval, Nassau and St. Johns counties. Rassman said the credit union has members who live as far south as Flagler County.

Moving the program each month “gives us a lot of flexibility,” and “we’ll be helping our partners in the community,” he said.

The Nov. 1 edition will be at Riverside Arts Market, where the credit union sponsors “The Oasis,” a covered seating area near the stage.

The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens will be the site for the event Dec. 6. Admission for all guests will be $6.

Locations beyond December are yet to be determined, but Downtown will be on the list sometime during the year, Rassman said.

Organizers had moved the event to different locations within Downtown the first two years.

The festival was first presented along Coastline Drive, then it was set up on the Riverwalk behind the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts and in the Hogan Street cul-de-sac adjacent to the Jacksonville Landing.

Last year, the venue changed again to Jaguars International Plaza, the JAX Chamber parking lot along Bay Street.

Another change in the program is going to a 12-month schedule instead of nine months. The event will be in indoor venues during summer months.

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