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Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013 12:01 am

First Night puts the art in party

Springfield Ballet Company performs at 6 p.m. in LRS Theater, Hoogland Center for the Arts


Springfield Area Arts Council welcomes and encourages you to make the arts part of your plan for this year’s New Year’s Eve. The arts are more than pleasure for the soul. The arts are innovators of humanity and architects of society.

SAAC’s First Night is celebrating the promise of a new year filled with this brilliance of art by hosting a night filled with enriching and delightful entertainment planned to take place at several downtown locations.

First, the party kicks off early this year, two days early, on Sunday, Dec. 29, with something new and different. A family-friendly 5K walk, run and stroll, the SAAC calls “the stART of something new,” takes place beginning at 11 a.m. at Scheels, 3810 South MacArthur Boulevard. Participants in the run/walk will receive a discount on First Night buttons and are invited to an after-party at Quaker Steak and Lube, 12:30-3:30 p.m., where participants will get a sneak peek of First Night entertainment.

Also before the main party begins the evening of Wed., Dec. 31, there’s fun for kids and families at Springfield High School during the day. Kids can participate in hands-on art activities from 1 p.m. to 4. In addition, Cowboy Randy, the Showstoppers and the Springfield Youth Performance Group will be performing. Then Mark Gifford will perform on the Barton organ at 4:15 p.m. in the SHS Schnirring Auditorium. The cost to hear Gifford is $5 or free admission with a First Night button.

The First Night celebration starts at 5 p.m. and runs through 11:15. For the first time, a buffet dinner will be offered at the Hoogland Center for the Arts. The scrumptious meal will be served 5-7 p.m. and costs $30. You must have a reservation and a First Night button so phone today or register online.

Black Magic Johnson plays the blues at Illinois Historic Preservation Building

Evening entertainment begins at 5 p.m. this year. First Night committee chair Craig Williams says there are “10 stages … 40 performances … one fabulous night.” Performances start each hour and last for 45 minutes. Early family acts include a magician, juggler and dancers. The beautiful Prairie Art Alliance’s H. D. Smith Gallery, on the first floor of the Hoogland Center for the Arts, will be open from 5-9 p.m. displaying and selling the amazing art produced by its local member artists.

New First Night acts this year include the engaging musician/performer/playwright Ken Bradbury, local Celtic group Mulligan Munro, the young sweet sounds of the Becca Young Jazz Sound, Shakespeare Shorts and opera performances. Drummer Ben Jacobs will lead a multimedia production and DJ Yanix will host a dance party.

Popular returning performers include folk singer/songwriter Ben Bedford, jazz marvel Frank Trompeter, comedian Grace Hughes and the admired Dual Pianos featuring Damien Kaplan and Mark Gifford.

Performances take place in the Hoogland Center for the Arts, Lincoln Library, First Presbyterian Church Sanctuary, Grace Lutheran Church Sanctuary, and new this year, in the Great Hall of the Illinois Historic Preservation Building, 313 S. Sixth.

The beloved fireworks display begins at 8 p.m. at Fourth and Capitol streets with the annual foam ball blast for cash prizes. The fireworks are designed by Nostalgia Pyrotechnics under the direction of Carl Steinmacher and sponsored by Horace Mann.

Admission buttons for this year’s First Night are $18 or $15 in advance when purchased at any Springfield Schnucks or County Market location.

More information on First Night is available by calling 217-753-3519. A complete schedule of performances and general information is at springfieldartsco.org. At this site, you can also learn more about the Springfield Area Arts Council and the good work they do for our community.

Contact Anita Stienstra at astienstra@illinoistimes.com.


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