NoRA and Middletown’s North End Kicks Off First Thursdays

First Thursday events are (perhaps obviously) events that take place on the first Thursday of every month. Traditionally such events are “big deals”: transforming your ordinary stores and eateries into something a bit more special. Carrie Carella, owner of NoRA, along with Rocco LaMonica, from Eli Cannons Tap Room, and Kevin Wirtes & Rich Garcia from Krust, have kicked off Middletown CT’s first North End First Thursday just a week or so ago! Carrie developed the event in order to create some positive energy and a sense of unity among Middletown business, and more particularly the blossoming North End scene. The event went very well, with heavy attendance and people wandering all over the North End, even in the brisk 22 degree weather!

Rocco, Kevin & Rich, and Carrie. Courtesy: Carrie Carella

Carrie Carella originally started thinking about the First Thursday event as a way to work with Rocco over at Eli Cannon’s and the other folks in the North End section of Middletown. It started out as a vague notion, but developed into a full-fledged plan sometime around December. As NoRA and Eli Cannon’s are still practically still connected to each other (as the staff for both businesses maintain strong personal and professional friendships), the idea to do some larger event was a no-brainer! Add in the fact that Krust (the realative newcomers to the North End) are doing very well for themselves and are more than happy to be on board, you have all the makings of a solid event. This first event, said Carrie, was a test to see if there was interest. The idea was to have a pop-up market in NoRA, while Krust and Eli Cannon’s feature an “East vs. West” beer event. This would encourage people to wander between the businesses in the North End, and I would personally call it a success; before I even saw the attendance of the events, I noticed someone with a pizza box in one hand, and a NoRA cupcake bag in the other making their way over to Eli Cannon’s. Which was the intended outcome for the evening!

My first stop was at NoRA, which had been transformed into more of a festival than a cupcake bakery. DJ Cajar was spinning all night long, bringing a very hip, modern vibe to the proceedings, as every nook and cranny of NoRA was packed with vendors, including local, artisans like Kangaroo Knits, Tara’s Beauty StudioHartford Prints!Laurie Lynne’s Jewelry & Kids Parties!Abielle Jewelry and Custom Painted SkullsWhole Harmony 4 U, Bean & Leaf, and RIPE Craft Bar Juice. Between the wares, music, cupcakes, and general positive vibes, the whole location seemed to teem with excitement.  

DJ Cajar laying it down at NoRA. Courtesy: Nick Caito & CTNow

Kevin Wirtes and Rich Garcia (owners of Krust) had a minute to pop over to NoRA to chat with me, and they were more than thrilled with the turn out. Carrie brought the event up to them originally, and they say that it was obvious that they would help out. Over at Krust they had set up East Coast tap takeover featuring Brooklyn Brewery beer, in addition to special menu items made with the New York beer. The guys were eager to help throw the first First Thursday to highlight the neighborhood and get more people going to Middletown. They said that the area is awesome with an eclectic art community and great places to eat –more people should be visiting and the First Thursday events are a great start.

Rocco holding down the fort at Eli Cannon’s Tap Room. Courtesy: Nick Caito & CTNow

Rocco managed to break away from the wall-to-wall crowd at Eli’s for a quick word as well. He admitted that the First Thursday event idea was primarily Carrie’s, but he was more than happy to immediately jump on board and help out with whatever would make the evening successful (including the beer theme which was East vs. West). He reiterated the fact that Eli’s and NoRA are still the same family, so any event to bring the businesses and their friends together is a win. Eli Cannon’s was responsible for the “West” of the East vs. West Tap Takeover, so Sierra Nevada was fully featured on Eli’s Taps. Marty Juliano was the Sierra Nevada rep on hand, and he was offering various bits of swag and a raffle for “Beer for a Year”, where the winner would get a set amount of Sierra Nevada beer either over the course of 12 months or all at once (whatever the winner wanted). Rocco featured a few casks of Sierra Nevada, as well as the whole front taps of Eli Cannon’s devoted to the California brewery. Rocco is a big fan of the honest-to-goodness tap takeover. In other words by devoting a dozen (or more) draft lines to a tap takeover really makes the event special. This in turn encourages the reps to come out with their crew and turns an ordinary bar night into something a more special and unique.

Carrie wants to have every First Thursday to eventually have a theme: for instance this spring the idea is to have a CT themed night with CT based everything represented across the North End. As of now Carrie actually has a waiting list as the outpouring of people and vendors wishing to be involved is so large.

Eli Cannon’s was kind of busy. Courtesy: Nick Caito and CTNow

The event was very well attended, thanks in part to a huge push over social media. Carrie is still figuring out what themes should be next, but she is very optimistic about the initial prospects for this event. According to Carrie, events such as this begin to create an identity for the North End and encourage people to get out of their comfort zones and check out something new and exciting happening in Middletown. As Carrie says, such events are a risk, but it seems to be working so far. I would wholeheartedly agree and can’t wait for the next food and beer driven event to kick off March 6th! Thanks for the photos go out to Nick Caito. Be sure to follow me on TwitterFacebook, and G+ for more local even information and beer ramblings!