Second Sunday on King Street has been an unqualified success. The first cousin to Second Sunday, though, is Summerville’s Third Thursday. The neighboring county of Dorchester might have figured out a way to even outdo its Holy City relative.

Now in its fourth year, Third Thursday transforms the town’s historic district into a community party. The Third Thursday of each month, stores stay open until 8 p.m., and the space surrounding Hutchinson Square fills with art and entertainment.

As I pulled off Main Street on the third Thursday of last month, a bell near Town Hall struck five times. Every parking spot in Hutchinson Square already was taken.

The red neon “open” light brightly welcomed those entering the Single Smile Cafe. Manager Ed Fonvielle said that Third Thursdays had tripled their business.

Outside, on the back of a flatbed trailer, an Elvis impersonator was setting up for a performance. Around the corner, two ukeleles and a strum bucket trio known as the Charleston Hot Shots were performing outside People, Places and Quilts.

Rain or shine

The largest crowds definitely turn out between March and October. Bad weather might keep people away, but the only time the entertainers pull the plug is when it rains. Nobody wants a short circuit surprise on Short Central Avenue.

The DREAM organization runs this show. That acronym stands for Downtown Restoration Enhancement and Management. Jan Hursey of DREAM says the original concept was to promote businesses.

At Guerin’s Pharmacy, Shelby Coward tells me it gets so busy that “we can’t keep enough hot dogs in the steamer.” According to the sign, a hot dog costs $1.75. So the event is fulfilling DREAM’s mission, and more.

Readers of the Summerville Journal Scene recently called Third Thursday the Best Free Entertainment Venue. When all you have to do is show up, “free” is an attractive price point.

Some Thursdays have a theme, but not always. Some nights there are jugglers, other nights there are hula hoopers. Are you starting to get the feel for what Thursdays in Summerville are all about?

Homespun hospitality

As I casually walked past a few storefronts, I could hear Elvis crooning in the distance. At the same time, there were people in rocking chairs, watching the world amble along. As Elvis wondered “Are You Lonesome Tonight?,” the artists and chefs, the shop owners and jugglers all moved in time to their own rhythm.

It’s hard to quantify why Third Thursday works — it just does. It’s the same concept as Charleston’s Second Sunday, but it has a distinctly different vibe. It’s OK to like both. One’s in the afternoon and the other is in the evening. Both are kid- and dog-friendly. You can find a good time at either location.

Kinda depends on what you’re looking for, or whom.

Third Thursday is definitely a nice way to get an early start on the weekend. Based on its popularity, Third Thursday is not playing second fiddle to Second Sunday; it’s just playing in a different location to a different audience.

Maybe the biggest difference is the small, hometown atmosphere that permeates this three- to four-block space. Handshakes and “how ya doin’?” constantly are offered.

A handmade crafts store, Downtown Crossings, goes the extra mile in laying out the welcome mat. Hung on the hinges of the front entrance is — what else? — a screen door.

It might be worth a visit to Summerville on an upcoming Third Thursday. My best guess, though, is that they treat you close to the same way every day of the week.

Reach Warren Peper at 937-5577 or