Friday at 5 p.m. is the workweek’s golden hour.
You’ve endured the rigors of the grind, running on caffeine and stress, and then… freedom. TGIF.
In the capital city, there’s a double shot of thanks on tap on the third Friday of every month.
That’s when Harrisburg rolls out its greatest hits reel: new gallery openings, hot new bands, custom cocktails, novel exhibits, gourmet specials, door-buster sales. The lights stay on longer in venues throughout the city, the crowds descend, and businesses put their best foot forward.
Akin to First Friday celebrations, “3rd in the Burg” runs year-round and allows folks to dial down the breakneck pace of the work week and stroll through the streets of the capital city, relax with a fine cocktail and gourmet dinner and mingle with friends, artists and musicians.
Nine years after 3rd in the Burg debuted, it’s getting an exciting refresh: a new logo, a new brochure with a map, a litany of new sponsors, a revamped website and a stronger social media presence.
“3rd in the Burg has operated rather quietly, like clockwork, for years,” said Larry Binda, editor-in-chief of TheBurg, which organizes the monthly event. “We want to raise its profile a bit and emphasize its association with TheBurg, since few people seem aware that we lead it.”
Opens Your Eyes
In recent years, the Broad Street Market has arguably become the heart of the action during 3rd in the Burg. However, the celebration extends broadly throughout Midtown and downtown, and typical participants include The Millworks, the Susquehanna Art Museum, Midtown Cinema, Home 231, Midtown Scholar, Zeroday Brewing Co., Right on Reily, Cork & Fork, Mangia Qui and the Vegetable Hunter.
Nor is it just for young hipsters, millennial professionals, state workers or the uber-artsy.
“There’s something for everyone,” said Kelsey Tatge, the 3rd in the Burg coordinator who often attends with her “West Shore mom” for dinner at Café 1500, Pastorante or Cork & Fork.
It’s family-friendly, dog-friendly and safe, too, she emphasized. And, after 5 p.m., parking is free in much of downtown.
To see the rapidly growing list of sponsors, just turn this magazine over. The ad for 3rd in the Burg was first placed on the back page nine years ago, and it has remained in that coveted spot since.
Devan Drabik, director of Explore HBG—a new sponsor—said it is “a celebration of not only the arts, but of the creative minds in the city, including the adaptive re-use” of so many buildings, including The Millworks and the Historic Harrisburg Association’s ongoing renovation of its bank building.
“Having TheBurg involved has been a tremendous blessing to 3rd in the Burg and the businesses involved,” Drabik said. “Since they took leadership of 3rd in the Burg, there has been a continuity of anchor businesses participating and an outpouring of new venues wanting to be involved.”
When Binda brought his friends from the nation’s capital to the state capital’s citywide art walk and bash, they were pleasantly surprised by the culture here. Their one challenge: Binda saw so many people he knew, they never ventured far from the Broad Street Market and Little Amps. His friends started calling him “mayor.”
Lots to Do
The reunion of old friends and the attraction of new tourists is part of the beauty of Harrisburg’s signature cultural event, as energy reaches critical mass.
Sydney Musser, of the Harrisburg Downtown Improvement District, said they timed their “Art in the Box” event, featuring artists painting 14 utility boxes, with 3rd in the Burg.
“3rd in the Burg is great because we can highlight all parts of Harrisburg,” Musser said. “Harrisburg is a small city, but it still has lots to do and check out, and this opens your eyes to that fact. It makes Harrisburg shine for those living here and those visiting.”
Tara Chickey, art director at The Millworks, said that the restaurant/brewery/art venue is often elbow-to-elbow during 3rd in the Burg as they schedule show openings with the event. An added draw is that “95 percent” of their artists are in their studios that evening, so patrons can meet them and chat.
“Harrisburg is a walkable city,” Chickey said. “This lets us connect the downtown with Midtown and Uptown.”
It also supports the “buy local” movement, she said.
Vivian Sterste said her fine arts gallery, Vivi on Verbeke, has been participating for several years. Located a stone’s throw from the Broad Street Market, she opens her cozy studio/gallery free of charge every month for a dose of unique pottery, vibrant paintings and more.
“We bring a warmth and camaraderie to our community on 3rd in the Burg,” Sterste said.
Even the downtown McCormick Riverfront Library is joining the party this year. Marketing Assistant Christina Zeiders said that, on Nov. 16, from 6 to 8 p.m., the library will hold “Date Night.” Attendees can bring their significant other or friends for food and crafts. They can choose either a pint glass or wine glass to decorate, at no cost to participants.
“Last summer, we began opening Saturdays as well as two evenings a week,” said Lisa Howald, new branch manager. Starting in September, they opened their doors late for 3rd in the Burg.
“We kicked off with ‘Bad Art Night,’” she said. “Participants had a great time making the worst art they possibly could in competition for a terrible trophy.”
In October, they hosted “Escape the Library,” an escape-room-style challenge. And, in the coming months, they plan to have live music, book bingo, mini-golf, snacks and more.
3rd in the Burg started in late 2009 when several local gallery owners wanted to launch a First Friday-type event to attract art-lovers to their venues. They approached TheBurg to be a founding member and media sponsor.
In the beginning, businesses and galleries had to pay a fee, which limited participation. After the original galleries closed, a steering committee asked TheBurg to take the reins completely. The first change made by TheBurg: eliminating the participant fee and attracting sponsors to offset the cost of the prominent, back-cover ad.
“The fee, although modest, was a huge barrier to participation,” Binda said. “After we eliminated it, everyone wanted to be part of 3rd in the Burg.”
Venue participation immediately jumped and, most months, 40 to 50 galleries, museums, restaurants, bars and other places now join in.
Binda noted that 3rd in the Burg receives no public funds, which distinguishes it from many First Friday-type events in other cities, nor is it a moneymaker for TheBurg.
“We basically donate staff time to it,” he said. “But we like providing this service. It’s become important to the fabric of Harrisburg.”
Importantly, it both brings people into Harrisburg for the evening and, for residents, acts as a community gathering, as locals use the night to congregate, chat and share a meal.
“It’s not just for tourists. The people who live here participate,” Binda said. “It’s a communal gathering. You see neighbors talking to neighbors.”
“Everyone says ‘hi’ to each other,” she said. “It makes you feel like you are a part of something. I’m proud of it.”
In the end, 3rd in TheBurg is a natural extension of TheBurg’s mission, Binda said.
“We want to serve and foster community,” he said. “The Harrisburg area can be a contentious place, and we like to think that 3rd in the Burg is when the entire community can come together.”
So if it’s the third Friday, and the crowds throughout the city are big and happy, this must be Harrisburg.
3rd in the Burg takes place the third Friday of each month throughout downtown and Midtown Harrisburg. This month, 3rd in the Burg is on Nov. 16. For more information, see the brochure in this month’s issue, go to www.thirdintheburg.org or visit the Facebook page.