The community became connected with the Gahanna Area Arts Council's inaugural First Friday Arts in the Alley on July 6.

Kicking off what organizers intend to be recurring event held behind the Ohio Herb Education Center, 110 Mill St., the arts celebration attracted so many people that lines formed to enter and leave the Creekside parking garage.

"We couldn't be more encouraged by the response," said Christian Peck, arts council communications chairman. "Thank you to everyone who sponsored the event and believed in it, thank you to everyone who's attending the event and thank you to those who will attend next time. If you're not here, you're really missing out."

Peck said the theme of the first First Friday was balloons because the arts aren't just full of hot air.

"We really do believe this can be a meaningful experience for Gahanna," he said.

The event will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. the first Fridays of August and September.

Gahanna Middle School East eighth-grader Sydney Errington said she liked the balloon sculptures she attempted to wear as hats, with the help of her friend Eva Resek, also a Gahanna East eighth-grader.

"It's cool," Errington said.

Resek said she liked the bright colors of the balloons.

Dan Lichty of Hilliard kept busy popping popcorn as a vendor for Cosmic Kettle Corn.

"I like these small-town shows," he said. "First Fridays is a neat concept."

Gahanna resident Laurel Naegele said she loves the community spirit she found at First Friday.

Naegele wrote the word "love" on the wall of a building that had written instructions that said, "May we have a Word with you?"

Festival-goers were asked to help write a poem by contributing one word at a time in colorful chalk.

Gahanna artist Danielle Helsel of Print and Pause said a percentage of her sales would go to a local charity.

Her prints are inspired by the colors, shapes and beautiful intricacies the world has to offer, according to her Facebook page: @/PrintAndPause. The legally blind artist uses her unique perspective to create her art.

California resident David Andres manned a table where visitors young and old could color pictures.

He's in Gahanna while visiting friends for a few weeks, he said.

"I'm doing my part to keep kids going," he said, as he colored his own picture. "It's great. The kids seem super happy."

Make Gahanna Yours founder Becky Kneeland also got in on the fun.

She incorporated balloons to help youngsters paint a piano that is part of the citizen-driven, volunteer-based, 501(c)(3) organization's Keys to the City project.

From May through September, donated pianos that are hand-painted by local artists are placed in public places in Olde Gahanna for anyone to play.

Piano players are encouraged to share their experience on social media with #KeysToTheCity.

Kevin Dengel, arts council board president, said he's super proud of the work of the Gahanna Area Arts Council in coordinating the First Friday Arts in the Alley event.

"We've been making sure our community knows this isn't just an arts festival, but a community festival," he said. "It's something that can bring everybody together. The attendance here is a reflection of that."

Festival attendees are being given an Alley Cat sticker, making them an honorary arts and community ambassador, Dengel said.

The council's mission is to connect and enrich the community through participation in and engagement with the arts, according to Peck.

Its vision is to cultivate a creative community, he said.

Described as a maker's market meets block party, the three-hour First Friday Arts in the Alley features live music, local food trucks, arts and crafts vendors, and community groups.

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