Sun Chronicle Go Magazine: The Celebration Must Go On

The Back Bay Puppeteers Cooperative’s Babe the Blue Ox marches in an earlier First Night Boston Grand Procession. (submitted)

The celebration must go on

Ah, it’s finally here. Christmas is over (you can tell because Valentine’s Day candy is on store shelves) and it’s the bright dawning of a new decade.

But first, you need to figure out how to say “Good Riddance 2009!” in style and remember that it’s your last night to go crazy before all those pesky resolutions kick in. With the Attleboro area ideally situated between Providence and Boston, deciding where to go can be harder than figuring out what shirt to ring in the new year with.

There has been some chatter that New Year’s Eve isn’t the celebration it used to be. Well, the directors of the two biggest celebrations in New England don’t think so, and have created a lineup that’s jam-packed.

Here’s a breakdown of what’s going down on New Year’s Eve, from Bright Night in Providence to First Night in Boston:

Bright Night

A continuation of First Night Providence, Bright Night was started in 2003 when First Night ended. A group of artists banded together to make sure that New Year’s Eve celebrations weren’t cancelled altogether. This year they came closer than ever to not being able to host the night, especially after the Providence Tourism Council and the City of Providence bailed on funding.

Artists gathered in late November to figure out if they would be able to continue. They decided to go for it, and according to Adam Gertsacov, the festival director of Bright Night, they started a grassroots campaign to raise money. The City Workers Union and the an anonymous donor gave money to not only keep WaterFire lit this year, but the whole night. Forty percent of Bright Night is funded by private donations, and the rest is made of ticket sales.

Gertsacov said they have received a great response from the public, too.

“I don’t think people have lost interest in celebrating New Year’s Eve. Fairs and festivals have done brillantly during the recession. It is harder running them,” Gertsacov said.

Paul Robicheau’s Ice sculptures, above, and fireworks, below, are always a big draw for First Night. (Submitted)

Despite that, Bright Night has enough activities to keep one entertained.

“There’s not much of a difference (this year). It’s not much smaller. There is still the big show at the Convention Center,” Gertsacov said.

That big show is the IllusionQuest, performed by David Garrity. Known for passing things through a person and escaping while suspended upside down over a bed nails, he has wowed audiences all over the world.

Tickets for Bright Night are actually wrist bands. When you buy the band, you also pick the illusion show time you wish to watch (first come, first serve). That will leave you open to pick your events for the rest of the evening.

“I would rather have a festival everybody loves than one that makes a lot of money,” Gertsacov said.

Bright Night will be filled with clowns, puppets, musicians, artists, and Grammy Award-winner Bill Harley will also be among those performing. Harley, a Seekonk resident, is best known for the children’s songs he’s written and performed, and is a contributor to NPR’s “All Things Considered.”

Bright Night takes place throughout the downtown. There will be no fireworks, but WaterFire will be lit at two locations: WaterPlace Basin and Memorial Park. After midnight, WaterFire in Memorial Park will be celebrating it’s 15th birthday. Wrist bands are $15, or $50 for four, and are available at or by calling 401-621-6123.

First Night

First Night (which should be more aptly named Last Night, as it’s the last night of the year) has everything one could look for while celebrating the advent of a new year. Fireworks, ice sculptors, dancers, and all that jazz (literally) are scattered around the city in such a way that your can pick and choose your pleasure.

“It’s the start of a new decade, so we are trying to have an exciting night,” said Geri Guardino, executive director of First Night.

The Bright Night grand procession goes through downtown Providence. (submitted photos)

Guardino, like Gertsacov, said she has seen little evidence of a waning interest in New Year’s Eve. In fact, she said Monday that there has been an 18 percent sales increase in Web purchases for the First Night button, and that day was also the start of the heaviest buying period.

With so many choices, Guardino recommended looking at a program guide or the Web site to plan the evening.

“You should plan to go to three or four programs and to mix those with the Grand Procession,” she said. The procession leaves from the Hynes Convention Center at 5:30 p.m.

Guardino said families can enjoy the family festival at the Hynes from 1 to 5 p.m. with time to spare to see the procession. For adults, she recommends coming later in the day and making the procession the first activity before grabbing dinner and catching some performances.

Fireworks will be going off at 7 p.m. over Boston Common and at midnight over Boston Harbor.

As for the ice sculptors, they are scattered around Beantown. Donald Chapelle has carved a breathtaking rendition of Michaelangelo sculpting the Statue of David. You will find that on Boston Common. Eric Fontecchio and Alfred Georgs, meanwhile, have created “Venus” and “Fisherman” in Copley Square. “Penguins,” also carved by Chapelle, will be located outside the New England Aquarium, and a creation from “The Secrets of Tomb 10A: Egypt 2000 BC” exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts will be on display near the Boston Common Frog Pond.

First Night highlights you might want to check out include Kaiju Big Battel, described by Guardino as Japanese wrestling and a monster movie; Anat Cohen for two performances at Berklee Performance Center on Mass. Ave., with the second show aired live on WGBH’s “Toast of the Nation”; and a taste of comedy with Tony V and Jimmy Dunn.

“If you want to get a button and go hide and see films all day, you can do that, too,” Guardino said, referring to the Bombay Cinema event taking place from 12:30 to 11 p.m. at the Hynes Convention Center.

First Night buttons are $18 and be purchased at

If you are worried about getting to, from and around the Hub on New Year’s Eve, public transportation services have been expanded, and starting at 8 p.m., they’re free. The Blue, Orange, and Red Line trains will operate on a weekday schedule and will run until about 2 a.m. Commuter rail service will also operate on a weekday schedule. Outbound train from South Station to Providence, which normally leaves at 11:59 p.m., will depart at 12:45 a.m. on New Year’s Eve. There will also be a 1:45 a.m. departure to Providence from South Station. New Year’s Day service will operate on a Sunday schedule. For more information, go online to or call 617-222-3200.

Patriot Place

If you prefer to ring in the new year closer to home, Patriot Place in Foxboro will host a variety of events, from CBS Scene to Bar Louie and Showcase. Thirty bucks will get you into Bar Louie for their Totally ’80s NYE 2010. It includes a small buffet, champagne toast, and cover.

CBS’s “Countdown to Midnight” includes DJ Mike Pardi, the band Crossing Country, party favors, a champagne toast, and prize giveaways. Starting at 9 p.m., it costs $20 to get in (before that is free).

Showcase Cinemas De Lux will let you choose a late night movie of your choice, reserved seating, champagne toast, dessert buffet, and watching the ball drop on the big screen, all for only $20.10. Showcase Live, on the other hand, is having a prix fixe dinner for $30 that includes a champagne toast and dessert samplers while the band New York Minute performs.

At Tastings Wine Bar and Bistro there will be a champagne toast, music, dancing, and party favors. Reservations are required.

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