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HANFORD — After five months of weekly downtown Hanford fun, Thursday Night Market Place will be coming to a close tonight.

“I’m hoping everybody comes out,” Shelly Johnson, executive director of Main Street Hanford, said. “It’s going to be a big, fun blowout for the end of the season.”

Thursday Night Market Place kicked-off in May with “May the Fourth be with You” — a “Star Wars” themed night — and will end tonight with “Paint Downtown Pink” in an effort to promote breast cancer awareness.

In between those two nights were 19 differently-themed Thursdays filled with music, activities, food vendors, business booths and fresh produce at the farmer’s market.

“We’ve had a great response,” Johnson said. “People have come out in droves. It’s been a fabulous year.”

Jim Castleman, a Main Street Hanford board member, has volunteered to help organize the event for 17 years. He said despite having to cancel one of the events due to extreme heat, this year had been very successful.

He said when Thursday Night Market Place first started, a core group of the community attended for the first few years; since then, the event has gained traction and sees an average of between 2,000-3,000 attendees a week.

Tonight, for “Paint Downtown Pink,” Johnson encourages everyone attending to wear pink. Main Street is teaming up with Adventist Health to help get the word out about early breast cancer detection.

Johnson said all the booths and vendors will participate in a pink-inspired decoration contest.

‘”It’s getting bigger and bigger every year,” Johnson said. “I hope a crowd comes out.”

One of the highlights for Johnson this year was having a flyover from Naval Air Station Lemoore’s VFA 97 Warhawks on Aug. 17, which was “NASL Appreciation Night.” She said local people are very patriotic, so it was special to have a flyover at the event for the first time in five years and see the attendees’ responses.

“It takes a lot of hard work, but it’s so fun to see the community come together and enjoy themselves and time with their families,” Johnson said.

Castleman said the reason he likes the event is because it brings people together from all over the city as a community, including folks from Lemoore and other surrounding cities.

“It’s nice to see people from all walks of life,” Castleman said. “There’s a good sense of community.”

Castleman said he’s also been told from bands that play at the market that it’s one of the best and most stress-free venues to perform at.

“I’ve been to other markets, and this is by far the best one in a wide area of the Central Valley,” Castleman said.

Speaking of bands, soft/pop rock band Sugar is set to perform for the crowd tonight.

Thursday Night Market Place may be coming to a close, but Johnson said the work is far from over for Main Street Hanford; Witches Night Out will be held Oct. 20, Small Business Saturday will be Nov. 25 and the annual Wine and Chocolate tasting will be held in December.

She also said preparation for next year’s Thursday Night Market Place will start in December.

“We’re always busy, busy, busy,” Johnson said.

News Reporter

News reporter for The Sentinel

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