First Night Frolicking

Do you like the arts? Do you think you can have fun without drinking? Do you want the option of celebrating with your family and or children? Are you okay with being outside in the dead of winter for at least part of the night? Do you want to be around lots of other people who would also have answered yes to these questions?

First Night celebrations began in Boston as part of the 1976 bicentennial events and have flourished as a standalone festivity. 110 First Night events are scheduled to take place as we say goodbye to 2005 and greet 2006. Sure, sure, sure, you think, but what does that mean to me? Why do I care? Well it means that you have a chance to see quite a lot of local talent in one night for a cheap price and most likely you can finish the night with a fireworks display. Sometimes you can catch a pretty nifty laser show and there are usually parades and crafts. A few years ago my kids and I designed and built party hats, made sand sculptures, painted a wall, listened to music, ice skated, watched a magic show, ate ice cream, watched the laser show and finished up with fireworks, all for less than fifty dollars for the entire family.

So what's going on at your local First Night? This handy website will be able to give you some information and I'll highlight a few interesting shows. I am both terrified and intrigued to see that First Night Annapolis will be hosting a Punch and Judy show. I've read enough dark fantasy to have approach avoidance conflict about this one. When I hear that the Baltimore Sun says, "The kids laughed so hard they hiccupped, rolled on their sides, and squealed," I'm well aware that is also the description of children who are having the opposite of a good time. If I can't pluck up enough courage to attend that show there are plenty of others including belly dancers, "psy-dentical twins" (psychic mediums who are twins, what are the odds?), and a magician.

Del Ray Beach, Florida is having a giant puppet parade and finishing off with fireworks. There will also be something called a Bobcat Ballet, described as "an outdoor dance where contruction (sic) tractors pirouette in unison with ballet students." Nothing says grace and beauty like dancing with heavy earth moving equipment.

First Night Evanston, Illinois is featuring 117 performances on 19 stages. Underage Sugar Addicts will be playing theater games and practicing improv. An ice sculptor will carve out a skating polar bear before your very eyes. Christopher Carter, mentalist, will shock! Amaze! Astound! Defy logic! Confound your senses! Be sure to check out his website. Wow.

The Martinez, California First Night extravaganza will host a group called Gunfighters Incorporated. This is no fly by night gunfighting group; they bill themselves as an "authentic gunfight reenactment group." Dr. Popular, a third place World Yo-yo champion will thrill the crowd with his wild tricks and innovations. There will also be a drum circle and a parade.

The First Night taking place in Missoula, Montana starts off at 1:00 p.m. with a children's hat parade. Don't worry; there will be children accompanying the hats. When the sun goes down for the last sunset of the year you can go to the twilight gathering and bonfire. That sounds nifty but best of all there will be free carousel rides and pony rides! You have to weigh less than 100 pounds for the pony rides so I hope you didn't indulge too much over the holidays.

Austin Texas has a performance that sounds really snazzy. "Blue Lapis Dance – 'Whispers of Heaven' — Dancers explore aerial space using flowing pillars of cloth, reaching and freefalling from up to 20 feet juxtaposed with a carpet of rose petals, adapted from a transformative site specific performance piece." I will be the first to admit I don't quite understand what that means but it sounds like it would be an amazing sight. There will also be fire dancing (!), poetry slams, a visual art robot group, loads of music, fireworks and about a gazillion other shows I would love to attend.

Have a safe and wonderful last night of the year.