Best Friends Day is not just a keg party and it’s not just for locals. What started as a get-together for one small posse has turned into a much-anticipated annual event where people get a chance to have fun, support local bands and businesses, and pal around with old friends and new.
Best Friends Day is a yearly party so big that some Richmonders have started to look forward to it like a new holiday. What now lasts a full weekend and has travelers flying and driving in from all over the eastern US started as just a get-together with a small posse.
“My friend Anna and I wanted to have an end of the summer celebration with our friends, so we made some shirts, banners, and invited our bros to the water park for the day. Forty people came and we thought that was crazy,” said Shelley Briggs, Director of Books on Wheels and Co-Founder of Best Friends Day. “As the years went on, days and events were added. By year two, a show was booked after the water park at Plaza Bowl, and by year three another two days were added, so things just grew as more and more people came out for BFD.”
At the first Best Friends Day, Briggs knew everyone who attended. “Now, 2000 people show up and it’s a lot of new faces,” she said. The party certainly has grown, going from just an afternoon at Hadad’s Lake to a full-blown weekend festival including a scavenger hunt and multiple rock and roll shows.
One of the biggest attractions for Best Friends Day is that it’s not just a party for locals, but that it’s become an annual ritual for reuniting friends. In our mobile age, people aren’t as likely to stay within 50 miles of their birthplace, and yet there is still a need to preserve the friendships that would otherwise disappear with distance. Best Friends Day provides an agreed-upon time and location for many old friends to catch up, giving Richmond ex-pats a chance to come to town and know that they will see the folks they left behind as well as others who have moved away. “I think a lot of people think it is a music fest, but really it’s more about reuniting with friends and it just happens to have an awesome soundtrack. There are some people I get to see two to three times a year and one of those days is BFD,” says Curtis Grimstead, owner of Rorschach Records and part of the BFD team.
Of course, when a lot of people get together and booze is involved, wild times can be had. But don’t buy into the rumors that Best Friends Day is just a keg party for youngsters. “It is about fun, but it is about the bands and about the community and supporting a music scene, staying youthful and enjoying life. And most importantly it is for everyone…people are slowly realizing that they don’t have to be into music to have a good time with friends,” said Briggs. Wart Tefft, owner of Chop Suey Books and another of the event’s organizers, agrees: “Best Friends Day is what the name suggests: making friends and being friends and celebrating those relationships, so we really do welcome everyone who comes with the same goal.”
A celebration this successful has naturally attracted some attention from party planners in other cities, but this particular cocktail of activities makes Best Friends Day distinctly Richmond. “We have been approached by different people and businesses who would like to hold BFD in other towns,” says Ward Tefft. “But this event is so tied to Richmond that we can’t imagine it existing anywhere else. People might borrow ideas from BFD, just as we have borrowed from other festivals and weekend events, but without Hadad’s and Alley Katz and the huge number of Richmond friends that show up, BFD would no longer be BFD.”
“Cities all across the country have large events that fit in with that particular town’s lifestyle, where BFD works out perfectly for Richmond,” says Grimstead.
When asked for advice to potential attendees, Grimstead says “Drink lots of water, have fun, bring a pinata and a sombrero.”
“Come out to have fun, to play well with others, and to see some great music. There are 3 simple guidelines: No pets, No glass, and please respect the venues. If you get the first two right, you’ve already succeeded with the third,” says Tefft.
Best Friends Day 8, The Ocho, will be held from August 20-23. The entire weekend will feature almost 30 bands, a night at a duckpin bowling alley, a day at a water park, a world record bike jump over 40 square feet of nachos, and a 3 day winner-take-all scavenger hunt. All for only $40!!! A line up of the bands and venues can be found at bestfriendsday.net. And be sure to check back with RVANews later in this week for more coverage on the bands taking part this year.