Five years ago, after the Freckled Dog Pub but before we started roasting coffee, brother Tim and I decided we wanted to make Friday evenings a thing. The two of us, and our families (hard to know how many kids between us at the time), loved gathering behind Summit’s Basecamp location in downtown Davidson circa 5:00pm every Fridays for beers, laughter, and the world’s smallest-but-mightiest “playground.”
That first summer, in 2014, we set up a folding table right out the backdoor and sold cans of beer. It was silly, in hindsight, setting up a bar with moderately cold cans no more than 20 yards from our bar with refrigerated cans and an actual register. But it was also new, and people remarked on it, and every Friday another family or three showed up until by the end of that August it had become a thing.
For 2015, we introduced draft beer via a homemade jockey box — basically a draft system built from an Igloo cooler. Other than taking 90 minutes and two people to set up, and the gallons of beer poured down the side of the deck as we tried to figure out why it was so foamy, it was progress. The same families from 2014 circled back, and brought some friends, and usually some pizza. Beers at 5:00 turned into beers at 4:00, and time to go home at 7:00 turned into “when does live music start?”
Last weekend, we kicked off our sixth summer of Friday beers at Basecamp. Summers past of 15-20 friends has blossomed, or so it seems, into summers present of 150-200 friends. Kids scatter around downtown, climbing trees and walls and parents. Music starts at 4:30, well after the drinking does, and crowds don’t dissipate as the night ages on … they just grow. When I walked my kids home last Friday, reluctantly (perhaps more for them than me), more than 200 people were sprawled behind Summit across dozens of tables, new benches, sitting and standing, everyone talking.
This is community. This is why we do what we do. An employee asked me yesterday what my favorite thing about my job is. “I get to make people happy.” And while I devote most of my effort to managing our team, Fridays are all about you. They’re about the town of Davidson, no more than 10 years removed from empty parking lots and quiet streets when the sun went down, showing up. About a generation of townies who didn’t know a Davidson before Friday nights at Summit.
Friday night at Basecamp is where parents become friends because their kids shared chalk on the brick sidewalks. We’ve met two of our best family friends in the world, who we vacation with and break bread next to every Sunday, right there in the dirt next to the stage with string lights.
While Fridays have grown up, so has Davidson, so have our kids. The first summer, Tim and I poured beers from cans while our wives nursed newborns under the summer sun. Today, that same newborn graduated preschool and this Friday I’ll scarcely see her as she sprints past, herding a group of five-year-olds to the playground then the trees then for a water break, over and over again. The canned beers turned homemade draft system has given way to an actual bar, with draft beer (of course) but also draft wine.
Fridays at Basecamp are where a generation of Davidson is growing up, another opportunity for a town to be a community. There are as many senior citizens as their are seniors in college; as many parents as preschoolers.
At the end of my time at Summit (sometime next century don’t worry), I imagine I will look back at Fridays at Basecamp as one of our legacies as a family. I look forward so much to seeing friends, chatting up customers, meeting strangers. I look forward to a beer, and then another, and maybe a rosé if I am feeling extra wild. I look forward to that scarce moment when my kids run past, to say hi and give a hug and ask for some money to buy a smoothie.
Almost every Friday in the summers in Davidson, I step away for a moment to the back stairs at Main Street Books, which provides the best vantage point of it all. It’s the proudest I feel, every week, of what Summit has created and what Davidson has become and where my family gets to grow together. It’s the middle of May, and it’s hot and bright enough to start serving beers on the back porch of Summit and I’ve got another summer to celebrate how much there is to celebrate.
See you on Friday.