Main Street will go wild Friday, May 24, for a zoo-themed evening complete with exotic animal appearances, a Jack Hanna look-alike contest judged by the local celebrity's manager and a performance by children's music stars the Shazzbots.
Visitors also can take in a 9 p.m. showing of Madagascar 3 on Capital University's lawn at 1 College and Main.
Many Main Street Businesses will stay open late on Friday and some restaurants will offer zoo-themed menu items, including a caterpillar roll at Moshi Sushi and cocktails at Giuseppe's Ritrovo.
These special activities are all part of what the city has named The Main Event -- a monthly gathering that will link Main Street restaurants and shops with music and activities. The Main Event, which will begin at 7 p.m. the last Friday of each month through September, revolves around a movie.
Each event will include crafts, face painting and games for children, as well as outdoor games such as corn hole and croquet.
"We want to bring people to Main Street so people really realize the cool stuff we've got going on in Bexley -- but the nice thing is, it doesn't have to cost a penny," said Lori Ann Feibel, chairwoman of The Main Event. "We'd like people to try out our restaurants and go into the shops, but you could also just bring a picnic basket and a blanket."
Although the event's enormity called for plenty of planning, up until a few months ago, The Main Event was nothing more than a movie to be shown on Capital University's lawn under the banner Movies on Main.
Mayor Ben Kessler said he and city Parks and Recreation Executive Director Michael Price came up with the idea last year to request a $5,000 Bexley Community Foundation grant to purchase an inflatable movie screen and the rights to movies. Shortly after the foundation awarded the grant in the fall, Kessler said business owners began suggesting the city host a night that would promote Main Street merchants and allow them to get involved. He also had heard last summer's Music on Main series needed a revamp.
"The more we thought about it, it just became really apparent that there were a whole lot of opportunities to turn (Movies on Main) into something bigger," Kessler said.
In March, he formed a committee to explore options and plan a larger event.
Leaders from the community, Capital University, Bexley Chamber of Commerce, Piccadilly, Cherbourg Bakery, Bexley Public Library, Giuseppe's Ritrovo and Schumacher Gallery have met every Wednesday morning since then to build Movies on Main into The Main Event.
"This group of people is really creative and at the first meeting, all of the sudden the ideas were just flying all over the place and it became pretty clear that there was a little bit more to this event than music and merchants and restaurants and movies," Kessler said.
The decision to make every event themed around a movie has still driven much of the planning, Feibel said. Next month, How to Train Your Dragon will be the main feature. It has inspired a children's Highland Games, which Piccadilly will help participants prepare for by providing materials to make shields. Celtic bagpipers and archery demonstrations will provide additional entertainment, Feibel said.
In July, Raiders of the Lost Ark will be shown in conjunction with Ohio Chautauqua on Capital University's lawn, and in August, the event will be food-centric in honor of Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory. Bexley Has Talent will be held to kick off a showing of The Princess Bride in September.
To make all of the events possible, the committee appealed to sponsors who have joined the original backers, which included the Drexel Theatre and Capital University.
"We really rallied the troops and I can't begin to tell you how fabulous this group of people is," Feibel said. "We've got everybody doing something so The Main Event is as special as Bexley is."
Capital University is opening its parking space for the event. In case of rain, the movie will be shown at Montrose Elementary School.
Feibel said she and her committee have worked hard to transform Movies on Main so that it will leave an impression and exceed expectations.
"This is about creating memories for the people of Bexley," she said. "I'm hoping it becomes a summer staple for our city."