On the first Friday of every month, the downtown businesses in Fairhope host First Friday Art Walk, when stores, galleries, and restaurants offer special refreshments, music, and other entertainment.
Having lived in Fairhope for 40-plus years, I'm always amazed when I go downtown on this particular night and see the crowds of happy people out and about, enjoying the ambiance of the town that was a sleepy village in 1977, when I made it my home. The energy is that of a fabulous resort destination, and I pretend that I am on vacation in an unfamiliar place.
On the first Friday in July, I met some friends at a local restaurant on Fairhope Avenue, The Pearl. We sat at the bar and watched all the activity from the establishment's big windows overlooking the street. The avenue was closed to traffic, a band was setting up in the street, and we enjoyed people-watching while guessing who was local and who was a visitor. You can always tell the visitors because they wear fancy resort clothes and look fabulous!
Cortney, the bartender, told us about her drink specials, and I decided to try something new. The mixology of cocktails has become very trendy, so being adventurous in my old age, I had a hibiscus flower, guava, and lemon concoction that was very refreshing.
My friends were more subdued with wine choices from their very nice wine list. We ordered three appetizers to sample and share, and because The Pearl is known for their oysters, we enjoyed fried oysters, baked oysters, and marinated crab claws. Because I am old school and never want to eat oysters when it's not an “R” month, I didn't have high expectations for oysters in July.
The Pearl proved that my theory was wrong! The fried oysters were a nice size, firm, and full of flavor and were served on the most delicious mound of pickled collard greens. Fried oysters are my favorite, and I had to withstrain myself from eating more than my share. The chili garlic butter sauce on the baked oysters gave this dish a great flavor. After all the crab claws were eaten, the marinade was left, and Cortney encouraged us to finish it with crackers! All three appetizers were delightful.
After this lovely experience, we meandered around town, heard some music, saw more beautiful people, and eventually found ourselves at The Lyons Share, an art gallery on De La Mare Street. They always have featured artists on Art Walk, and this night, the works of Holly Irwin and Elizabeth Haas were on display. Looking at beautiful art is just as fun as looking at beautiful people!
Our evening ended with a visit to the Book Cellar, where a fun, local band, The Leavin’ Brothers, was on the stage. We boogied a little, chatted with more friends, and called it a night. A good time was had by all!