Columbia’s Fourth Fridays Setting the Stage for a Game-Changing 2024


Columbia’s Fourth Fridays Setting the Stage for a Game-Changing 2024

In the Susquehanna Valley, it doesn’t take long for word of a good deal to spread.

Columbia’s Fourth Fridays are a case in point. Spearheaded by the borough’s Merchants Association, the monthly town-wide events draw hundreds of visitors from both sides of the river. The March 22 Fourth Friday features a Shop and Win promotion, which includes a punch card that can be picked up at any one of a dozen spots, including the Columbia Market House on South 3rd Street, between 5:00 and 8:00 pm, 

Visit seven participating locations in the ultimate walkable town, drop your card off at the Market House, and you’ll be eligible to win a springtime gift basket. The challenge is in the hunt, of course, but the real fun is in the one-night-only discounts and specials being offered by retailers all over Columbia.

Fourth Fridays have proved to be a game-changer for Columbia, where small retailers and eclectic businesses have found a hip, affordable home—and pass those savings along to their customers. As the locals like to say, “If you’ve never seen anything quite like it before, you probably saw it Columbia.”

The first two Fourth Fridays in 2024 were among the most well-attended and popular yet. January’s Wine Into Winter highlighted the products of local vineyards, with generous pours (no charge, you’re welcome) at locations all over town. February’s Chocolate Meltdown offered visitors every type of chocolate imaginable, from traditional treats to chocolate-infused beverages. Lancaster Distilleries and Wisteria Sweets teamed up for spirit-and-chocolate pairings.

In April, the theme for Fourth Friday will be All About Spring and, in May, Honoring Our Heroes. The Fourth Friday theme for July is Summer in the Streets.

Around Town

Things are hopping at the Columbia Market House, with wall-to-wall vendors every Saturday and a string of free Thursday night historical presentations that began in February. The next talk is scheduled for March 21 at 6:00 pm. Sports author Mark Stewart will present Sheck: The Baseball Life of Jimmy Sheckard, the story of Columbia’s most heralded athlete. On March 28, Celeste Leslie will speak about her work at Zion Hill, one of Pennsylvania’s most important Black cemeteries. On May 11, the Market House will host Rivertown Retro Fest, featuring a variety of vintage vendors. 

Columbia has become Vintage Central over the past 18 months, with several businesses offering retro clothing, throwback toys and games, and all kinds of weird and wonderful collectibles. This month marked the opening of the largest to date, the State Theatre Vintage Emporium on Locust Street. Collectors can add this to their treasure-hunting to-do list, which includes Burning Bridge Antiques, Bootleg Antiques, Rivertown Antiques, Toll Booth Antiques, and Obscure Relics.

Cars, Books & Art

Collectors of a different kind will want to circle Saturday, May 18 on their calendars. That marks a new partnership between Create Columbia and the Columbia Public Library called Art in the Park…and Books in the Basement. More than two dozen artists will be set up in Columbia’s town square between Fifth and Sixth streets, with the library holding its biggest-ever book sale on its lower level. Silent auction items will also be up for grabs. The library is planning a massive book-signing event for June 15, with more than 20 tables set up for local authors.

As classic car aficionados know, June 15 is also Thunder on the River day—a car, truck and motorcycle show that draws thousands of people to town. More than 400 classic cars will line both sides of Locust St. all the wat up to Fifth St., and into the side streets along the way. If you’re wondering whether that jalopy you passed up as a teenager is worth more than your house, this is the place to find out.

Also in Columbia

• On June 8, Art in the Gardens will feature Columbia’s magnificent hidden gardens, with artists at work. Tickets and a guidebook can be purchased at the Market House for this popular walking tour. More information in available on Create Columbia’s web site.

• Flowers not your thing? Also on June 8, the Columbia Historical Preservation Society is sponsoring its inaugural Model Train Show at the Borough Fire Department on Manor Street. The CHPS Museum opens on April 20. Visitors can check out the new exhibits on the Underground Railroad in Columbia and the History of the Pennsylvania Railroad, and visit the awe-inspiring model train layout on the upper floor of the 1850 former Lutheran Church.

• On June 29 & 30, thousands of Susquehanna lovers will descend on the town’s waterfront for RiverFest, which commemorates the burning of the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge in 1863, denying the Army of Northern Virginia its chance to cross into Lancaster County.  The two-day celebration includes a Bridge Burner Run + Paddle Challenge, Historic Trolley Tours, and an Outdoor Recreation Expo at Columbia Crossing. June’s Fourth Friday will coincide with RiverFest, tempting visitors up Walnut and Locust Streets with special meals,, deals and other surprises.

• On August 17, Vintage Base Ball returns to Columbia at Jansen Park on Cherry Street. The Keystones of Harrisburg and Gettysburg Generals will meet for a double-header of Civil War era hardball—with old-time uniforms, no gloves (!), and a tip of the hat to Samuel Young, who brought organized baseball to the Susquehanna Valley and is buried across the street in Mt. Bethel Cemetery.

• Coming to Columbia…The Underground Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. Recently profiled by Susan Shapiro on WGAL’s In Focus, the 8,000 sq. ft. attraction is slated to open in late 2026. Combined with ambitious Underground Railroad projects in Lancaster and Wrightsville, it promises to create a heritage tourism corridor between Gettysburg and Lancaster that will add tens of millions of dollars annually to the region’s economy.