City organizes family-friendly alternative for New Year's Eve

Wednesday, December 24, 2008 | 12:39 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — When asked what their plans are for New Year’s Eve, most people begin describing a party at a friend's house or a night out on the town. But the celebration sponsored by the city of Columbia provides an alternative.

The 14th annual First Night Columbia celebration offers a night of food, music and fun that is appropriate for the whole family.

If you go

What: First Night Columbia New Year's Eve Celebration

When: Dec. 31; 5K Run: 4 p.m.; doors open: 6:30 p.m.; entertainment: 7 p.m.

Where: Downtown Columbia and Stephens College

Price: Early button sales offer admission buttons for $8 until 4 p.m. Dec. 31 at the Activity and Recreation Center, Streetside Records and Gerbes. Buttons are  $10 at the door and can be purchased at the YouZeum and Stamper Commons after 5:30 p.m. or at First Christian Church and the Missouri Center for the Arts after 6:30 p.m. Children ages 7 and under get in free.

Parking: Parking is available in the various garages located downtown. A shuttle will run from 6:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. and should stop every 10 to 15 minutes. A map is available on the First Night Web site of bus stops and routes.

For more information, go to the First Night Web site.

“First Night is a celebration of the arts on New Year’s Eve,” said Karen Ramey, director of operations for First Night Columbia, Inc. “It’s a positive way to bring in the New Year.”

First Night is designed to appeal to the public’s love of the visual and performing arts through a program that offers cultural experiences accessible to all, the organization's Web site states.

“This type of celebration is a great way for families and all ages to celebrate the year and the New Year together,” Ramey said.

"It is an event for all ages, and part of the event model is to encourage all ages to participate," Ramey said.

With performances ranging from The Savoy Family Cajun Band of Eunice, La., to guitar masters Beppe Gambetta of Genova, Italy, and Tony McManus of Canada, there is something for everyone. There is also a new venue this year as the YouZeum will be open.

“The goal is to find activities that are family-friendly, high quality and of cultural and genre diversity,” said Jane Accurso, entertainment and technical director for the event. “We have new, colorful entertainment every year, and we try to involve different aspects of our community each year.”

In its quest to appeal to the entire family, First Night offers events specifically for the younger crowds. There are special performers for children and a separate venue is available just for teens. Children can also make masks, crowns and noisemakers at the Children’s Art Area. The event is also alcohol-free.

The celebration itself relies heavily on volunteers to make sure things run smoothly.  Volunteers do everything from sales to security to stage crew, according to the Web site.

Other aspects of the event include a 5K Run/Walk at 4 p.m., a food court located at Stamper Commons at Stephens College and a People’s Procession at 11:30 p.m. to lead all attendees to Courthouse Square for the finale at midnight.

"Dress warm and plan ahead what you want to see and experience. Enjoy the dances, entertainment, art, children's events, processions, fireworks and have an awesome time," Accurso suggested.

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