Featured in the Metrowest papers

Along with First Night Worcester & First Night Boston, we are mentioned. I think our line-up of artists compares very favorably to both of the other festivals.


New Year’s Eve: A Festivity Trifecta

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Fireworks display is part of First Night Boston.

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By Chris Bergeron/Daily News Staff and Jody Feinberg/Gatehouse News Service
GateHouse News Service
Posted Dec 25, 2008 @ 10:00 AM


MetroWesters looking for New Year’s Eve fun can choose from three distinct choices to welcome 2009, all less than an hour’s drive away.

First Night Boston 2009, the granddaddy of all New Year’s festivals, is throwing the biggest bash of all with arts and activities spread across Bean Town.

With size come innovative opportunities, hot acts and complications, including parking hassles, packed public transportation and crowds reminiscent of Shanghai.

Throwing its 27th party, First Night Worcester 2009 provides accessible and varied family fun.
Rising to the challenge after economic woes ended First Night activities in Providence, area artists have been throwing their own party called Bright Night Providence since 2003.

Intimate, eclectic and an obvious labor of love, this festival provides a perfect example of committed artists sharing their passion with the public.
You can’t lose with this trifecta.

WORCESTER: Just up the Pike:
Just a short hop from MetroWest, First Night Worcester 2009 lets revelers greet the New Year with a mixed bag of arts activities from a multicultural Global Village to indoor kite flying, from comedian Casey Carle’s soapy “Bubblemania” to two Á count ’em Á fireworks displays.

Executive Director Joyce Kressler promised, “We’ve got something for everybody, for every taste and for every interest.

“Every year we make sure 80 percent of our performances and activities are new so nobody can say `I’m not going. I saw that last year,” she said. “This year we’ve got probably more than 500 artists and performers participating in about 120 acts and activities at 20 venues.”

While most events take place at indoor venues clustered around downtown Main Street, Kressler said several first-time sites like the New Hanover Theatre near the center and off-site events at Mass. College of Pharmacy, Worcester Craft Center and the EcoTarium provide more seats and larger stages for new performances.

Worcester’s First Night is an affiliate of the nonprofit group which organized the first such festival in Boston in 1976 for the bicentennial. Kressler said the Worcester group “was born in 1981 for 1982.”{ is hosting its 27th First Night this week.-said this in intro}
“Each First Night is like a snowflake,” she said. “At first they look alike but under a microscope, each is different in its own special way.”

Events kick off at 3 p.m. with a scavenger hunt, music, magic, storytelling and more at several sites and concludes from 11:30 p.m. to midnight with a Nipmuk Unity Circle and fireworks at Lincoln Square.

Over the last several years, Kressler said, attendance has been “good and pretty stable” ranging between 30,000 and 40,000 annually.

Visitors can attend any event, providing there’s room, by purchasing a First Night Worcester 2009 button. Buttons sold for $10 before Christmas, and are $12 until Dec. 31 and $15 at the gate. Children under 10 are free. If a group purchases more than 50 buttons in advance, the price is reduced to $8 for each.

To see the schedule for First Night Worcester 2009, visit www.firstnightworcester.org.

BOSTON: The first and fabulous First Night

First Night Boston is thriving, offering even more events this year than last.

The arts celebration promises not just a good time, but a way to enjoy the city’s music, theater, dance and cultural destinations for less money. That’s because the $18 First Night Button offers entry to scores of performances, not just on New Year’s Eve, but during the afternoon of Dec. 31 and through January.

“People come and do the free stuff, but I don’t think a lot of them understand what the button is,” said Geri Guardino, executive director of the 33rd First Night. “It’s really a great value not just for the night. There’s more programming this year in the afternoon, and if you hold onto the button, you get a lot of benefits.”

As in past years, the button gives you access to performances by the city’s leading arts groups, as well as cutting edge talent from afar. It’s a massive undertaking by a staff who work year-round turning a budget of about $1.3 million and in kind contributions of about $850,000 into a celebration that attracts about 1 million people.

“We’re expecting a good crowd, maybe bigger than usual,” Guardino said.

Traditionally, the afternoon programming has been for children, with a Family Festival packed with stunt teams, magicians, puppeteers, singers and more. This year, there’s also a non-stop lineup of classical and jazz singers and musicians at St. Paul’s Cathedral and music at The Mary Baker Eddy Library. A festival of short international films runs all afternoon at the Museum of Fine Arts. And free admission is available all day to the Institute of Contemporary Art and the Mapparium at the Mary Baker Eddy Library, and in the morning to the New England Aquarium.

But First Night goes into full gear in the evening, starting with the Grand Procession, where giant puppets, festive bands, colorful floats and hundreds of costumed revelers parade down Boylston Street.

Commonwealth Shakespeare, Opera Boston and the dance company Monkeyhouse are among the local performers. A highlight is the jazz phenomenon Hiromi and her group, Sonicbloom. Her concert, which includes students and alumni from Berklee College of Music, will be broadcast live nationwide by WGBH radio as part of National Public Radio’s new year’s celebration, “A Toast to the Nation,” a first for First Night.

“She is just such fun to watch and has fabulous musicians playing with her,” Guardino said. “She’s renowned, and it’s very exciting for us that it will be broadcast live across the nation.”

Guardino also is looking forward to sound artist Sxip Shirey, who has performed at Symphony Hall.

“Sxip sets up a landscape of sound and visuals that’s really cool and a bit like performance art,” Guardino said. “It’s fun for us to have some fringe stuff.”

Guitar buffs may want to catch the West African guitarist and drummer Mamaou Diop, who blends samba, salsa and reggae with Senegalese rhythms, and the Nashville group Scissormen, who play slide guitar blues.

You can find the humor in tough times when comedians Tony V and Kenny Rogerson take on the economy in “700 Billion Laughs: A Bailout of Humor From Some Serious Stupidity.” And be part of the humor in the sketches of ImprovBoston and Improv Asylum.

Of course, New Year’s Eve is a party and you can celebrate by dancing with the Fulani Haynes and the Jazz Collaborative or the Swingin’ Eve Dance Party with Marie Lawlor, who instructs at the top of each set.

Even without a button, there’s plenty of opportunity to dance. Two high-energy bands, Downbeat 5 and Black Taxi, play on Boston Common, and DJs host a dance party in Copley Square with a laser and light show. Take a break from dancing, and admire the massive ice sculptures on the Common and in Copley Square.

A short round of fireworks starts at 7 p.m. over Boston Common, and the midnight grand finale is over the waterfront. For the first time, you can see the fireworks from a harbor cruise, part of First Night’s new collaboration with the Boston Harbor Association. During the day on the waterfront, you also can tour pilot, fire and Coast Guard boats and ride the trolley from Christopher Columbus Park to the Boston Children’s Museum and the ICA.

“The waterfront is a great part of town, and we want to send people down there and use more of the city,” Guardino said.

On New Year’s Day, the button gives free admission to a child to the Boston Children’s Museum. Through January, you can bring a child to the New England Aquarium for free, receive a 30 percent discount to the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and get $10 off each ticket to “The Seagull” at the American Repertory Theatre. And that’s just a sample.
“We want to give value to the First Night button,” she said.

First Night Boston buttons are $18 at Shaw’s and other outlets and at First Night. Children under age 4 are free. Complete schedules and descriptions can be downloaded. For more information, go to www.firstnight.org.

PROVIDENCE: Let there be `Bright Night’
Facing the prospect of New Year’s Eve without a citywide celebration, Rhode Island artists created their own festival — Bright Night Providence.

Since 2003 about 100 artists, led by Adam Gertsacov, have combined their talents and passions to organize a new “family-friendly tradition” offering arts and activities at 22 venues within walking distance of downtown Providence.

More than 150 performers will be brightening this year’s last night with an eclectic mix of dance and music, martial arts and an international circus act, and ending with an 11:45 p.m. laser show at Kennedy Plaza.

Talk about a potpourri! From noon to midnight, visitors can enjoy an improvisational accordionist, the larger-than-life-sized puppets of Big Nazo, Grammy award-winning storyteller Bill Harley, slam poetry, Clare Vadeboncoeur’s “Snow Queen” and lots more.
For a bouncy first time event, the “first 3,000 people” at the door can watch the Providence College Friars play Saint John’s College.

“When First Night Providence canceled for financial reasons, local artists got together and decided `Instead of a dark night, we’ll give the public a bright night,” said Gertsacov, P.T. Barnum impersonator, flea circus impresario, and Clown Laureate of Greenbelt, Md., when he’s not Festival Director for Bright Night.

Preparing for his sixth festival, Gertsacov said organizers don’t exclude any Rhode Island artists but tend to hire performers from the capital area. To balance the emphasis on homegrown talent, he said, each year the show features “one big out-of-town act” with major name recognition.

For this year’s showcase performance, the Nerveless Nocks Daredevil Thrill Show will give 6, 8 and 10 p.m. shows at the Rhode Island Convention Center. Billed as the “world’s greatest stuntman,” family patriarch Michaelangelo Nock will thrill the audience performing daredevil stunts on the Wheel of Destiny, Aerial Fabric and Tower of Chairs.

Late night owls can choose between a 10 p.m. Swing Dance Blues Bash at the Beneficent Roundtop Center or an 11 p.m. candlelight service of holy communion at Grace Church.
While exact figures aren’t available, Gertsacov said attendance has been rising over the last several years to an estimated 20,000 visitors annually.

Rather than using buttons, Bright Night Providence uses wristbands for admission to all venues, space allowing. Wristbands cost $10 when purchased in advance and $15 at the event. A family 4-pack sells for $50.

“Times are tough because of the economy. But so far, so great,” said Gertsacov. “We’ve got some things in common with other First Nights but we’ve got our own special things. Bright Night Providence is about local artists saving a festival for Providence.”
To see the schedule for Bright Night Providence, visit www.brightnight.org.

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