Downtown Marietta was alive with music on Friday night as many local musicians dusted off their instruments and warmed up their vocal cords to perform for the first time since the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic. These live performances were all part of Marietta Main Street’s March First Friday event where the theme was Shamrock & Roll—a theme that many people embraced as they hit the shops and restaurants to listen to some of the MOV’s best musicians play some rockin’ tunes.

“It feels really nice to be able to get back out and play music for people. It’s great to see people come out and to have an organization like Marietta Main Street that brings business to not only downtown but to Harmar Village,” Nate Shahan said as he sat writing his song set outside the Busy Bee Restaurant.

Sadie Johnson and Vinnie Mele at Busy Bee Restaurant (Michelle Waters)

Shahan, who is also a tattoo artist and on the board of Marietta Main Street, played along with his friend Jimmy Woodward at the Busy Bee, which was one of the many businesses that hosted live music for the First Friday event. The duo were one of the three sets of performers to play at the restaurant, which was the title sponsor for this month’s First Friday. The other performers included Randy Sloter and Vinnie Mele, and Sadie Johnson.

“Playing music does a lot for me personally,” Shahan said. “It helps me express things I otherwise couldn’t express. I think music is something that people are really missing right now. It was one of the first things to get shut down and it’s still one of the last things to be coming back,” Shahan said.

I think that the arts help people get through hard times—especially this pandemic that we are still experiencing.

Nate Shahan

“When the pandemic first started and people were in lock down I bet everyone was either listening to music or watching movies so I think that the arts help people get through hard times—especially this pandemic that we are still experiencing.”

Continuing to play music despite not being able to perform in front of people helped Mark Doebrich’s guitar students get through this past year as well.

High Schools that Rock at Jeremiah’s Coffee House (Michelle Waters)

“Playing music on the internet with what we had to work with is not that cool. The nice thing is that parents don’t have to drive their kids or worry about COVID-19 because we are just on our computer screens,” Doebrich, Founder and Manager of High Schools That Rock, said as his students started to set up for their performance at Jeremiah’s Coffee House.

“They light up when they get to play with other kids. It’s play, it’s fun, it’s productive and it’s good. They were able to meet each other once in December after not performing since [last] March so they get to meet each other and they are pretty fired up.”

The students, a mix of 1st graders all the way to seniors in high school, “fired up” their guitars and played an assortment of folk, blues, gospel, and classic rock songs. Once the group finished playing “Folsom Prison Blues”, by Johnny Cash, the small audience inside the coffee house rang out with applause. As for those who didn’t feel comfortable coming out in public, the group streamed the performance via Facebook Live so people could watch them in the comfort of their homes.

Doebrich, now in his 20th year as manager of High Schools That Rock, said he hopes by streaming the performance on Facebook and having people share photos of the kids performing it will help him gain more students. “I haven’t been able to do a guitar camp and recruitment has been almost impossible,” Doebrich said.”

“The kids have weathered the storm and they continue to weather the storm. They have been so resilient. Thank goodness they have been so resilient. I love working with kids and I love playing guitar,” Doebrich said as he looked with admiration at his team of young musicians beginning to warm up for their performance.

We are still asking people to be responsible but they don’t have to be hidden away anymore—let’s enjoy each other responsibly.

Jocelyn Adelsperger

Jocelyn Adelsperger, Marketing and Events Manager at Jeremiah’s Coffee House, knows how much Doebrich loves working with kids and said the coffee house was excited to provide the group the ability to showcase their talent. “Mark has done such a great job with this program and he really stepped up and filled a hole that music programs and schools might be missing these days. He’s just one guy who is loving music and loving kids,” Adelsperger said.

Residents were ready to celebrate the season (Michelle Waters)

The goal for Jeremiah’s is to continue to have safe, socially distanced events in their side room which, according to Adelsperger, is large enough to keep 6 feet between each table.

“We are still asking people to be responsible but they don’t have to be hidden away anymore—let’s enjoy each other responsibly. The gist of this place is to take care of your neighbors and take care of your community so that’s what we just continue to preach while allowing people to have a little more freedom to celebrate events with great joy,” Adelsperger said.

“We are hoping we can build it back, and responsibly build it back to what it was. Our community in general has been promoting the small businesses and keeping the downtown alive through all of this and we are forever grateful for that. It feels like now it’s time to slowly and responsibly rebuild to what it was back in 2019 before all this hit.”

Caroline Waller of Passiflora sells bouquets from the Flower Cart (Michelle Waters)

Cristie Thomas, Executive Director of Marietta Main Street, said she too is all on board with safely rebuilding Marietta to what it was pre-COVID-19. “We are planning to host our full calendar of events this year, so long as our state keeps trending in the direction we are with a decrease in COVID cases and an increase in vaccinations,” Thomas said.

“First Friday events are planned for every single month, a Cabin Fever Shop Hop is planned for March 20th, this summer we’ll host our Wine & Chocolate Walk, and we are planning to fully host our Hometown Holiday calendar which includes Loft Tours, Santa Houses, and our Merry-etta Christmas Parade. We may add another event or two or three to the calendar this year, based on if and when Governor DeWine lightens the restrictions for fairs, festivals, and parades.”

While Thomas said the coming year excites her and the Board of Directors for Marietta Main Street, she said 2020 was, “exhausting.”

“2020 was high-pressure, worrisome, and a constant balancing act for our organization. We have a staff of one (me) and a passionate, committed Board of Directors each with full-time jobs, families, and worries of their own. That being said, I could not be more proud of what we accomplished in 2020, despite the challenges we faced,” Thomas said.

The support Marietta Main Street has received from the community as a whole has, in Thomas’ eyes, made the hardships of the past year a little easier to bear. “We receive messages daily from residents and tourists sharing their appreciation for our work—even from other main street organizations across the U.S. who follow us on social media,” Thomas said.

“I think when the going gets tough, folks recognize more and more what their strongholds are and Marietta Main Street is a rock in our community.”

Next on Marietta Main Street’s calendar of events is ‘Cabin Fever Shop Hop’ which will be on Saturday, March 20th from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Small businesses in downtown Marietta will host sidewalk sales, fun promotions, special events and more to help people escape from their winter hibernation and safely welcome in the Spring season. Learn more about this event and what else is on Marietta Main Street’s calendar of events.