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Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2010 11:31 am

A bigger and better First Night

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Wabash Run

After last year presenting the fewest stages in its soon-to-be 24-year history, organizers behind First Night 2011, Springfield’s New Year’s Eve celebration of the arts, are gearing up for a year of more.

Sponsorships for this year’s alcohol-free arts event, which begins at 1 p.m. on Dec. 31 and runs through midnight, came in 28 percent ahead of last year’s donations to help boost the event budget from less than $25,000 to about $28,000. The increased funding means two additional stages and more performers, whose presence could encourage more people to attend the event.

“We have 37 performances on nine stages and, of those, 13 are totally new to First Night. So we’re pretty proud of that,” says Penny Wollan-Kriel, acting director of the Springfield Area Arts Council, which organizes the event.

Besides new performers, ranging from blues to hip hop, this year’s First Night will also include a free day program designed especially for children and topped off with an early fireworks program. From 1 p.m. through the 4 o’clock hour at Springfield High School, children and their families can see juggling, dancing and puppetry or learn to sculpt clay and play the harmonica, among other activities.

This year’s event also includes a change of schedule for the usual fireworks display. An 11:55 p.m. laser show outside the Hoogland Center for the Arts on Sixth Street will replace midnight fireworks, which will take place at Fourth and Capitol streets at 6:30 p.m., early enough for young families to enjoy.

“We really are hoping to pull some more families to stay,” says Wollan-Kriel, explaining that children can earn a prize by completing an event sticker card and turning it in at 8:45 p.m.

Though family-friendly, the event is for people of all ages, Wollan-Kriel says, and offers a wide variety of genres at various times so that attendees can sample the arts in whatever combination they prefer.

All events are open to those who have purchased a First Night button, which is $15 for adults and $5 for children aged five through 18. Advance purchase tickets, available online at www.SpringfieldArtsCo.org, are $12 for adults, or $25 for two adults and two children. 

Wabash Run

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