First Night Columbia to showcase diverse art community

Thursday, December 27, 2007 | 5:10 p.m. CST; updated 6:55 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

COLUMBIA — With more than 75 performances at 15 venues downtown and on the Stephens College campus, First Night Columbia will celebrate the New Year with an alcohol-free display of its diverse art community.

For $10 or less, event-goers will have access to first-time headliners such as Grammy-winning bluegrass artist Laurie Lewis, Cajun band the Pine Leaf Boys and Chicago tap-dancing icon Reggio “The Hoofer” McLaughlin.

Karen Ramey, director of operations for First Night, said the event grows every year. Organizers expect more than 12,000 people this year if the weather holds out.

Ramey said passes are required for most indoor events; they can be purchased for $8 before 4 p.m. Monday at Streetside Records, Gerbes Supermarket, the Columbia Park and Recreation Department at 1 S. Seventh St. and the Activity and Recreation Center.

Passes also can be purchased the night of the event for $10 at Stamper Commons Lounge, the Missouri United Methodist Church, the Roger B. Wilson Boone County Government Center and the Old Armory Sports Center.

Children younger than 7 need no passes.

First Night entertainment director Jane Accurso has been working year-round to prepare a lineup of artists and activities to bring out participants of all ages.

“I just keep a really good feel for our community and their lifestyles,” Accurso said. “I do a lot of research and try to find what they would enjoy.”

Accurso has worked with First Night for five years and will perform this year with her own bluegrass band, Ironweed. She and the band recently finished a tour in China. Now she looks forward to the unique opportunity to play in a festival she helped coordinate.

“It’s extremely satisfying and heartwarming to look out and see family and friends that want me to be a part of their New Year’s Eve,” she said.

Free events at First Night will include children’s art activities at the United Methodist Church, the Spare Parts Gallery, the Children’s and People’s processions and the Children’s and Grande finales.

First Night will kick off with the Boone Hospital Center 5K run at 4 p.m. Dinner will be available at 5 p.m. at Stamper Commons Lounge. The festival will begin at 6 p.m. with entertainment starting at 6:30.

Ramey offers advice to those planning to attend.

“It’s best to get a schedule and figure out where you want to go because there is so much to do that you will need to have a plan,” she said.

For maps and more information, or to purchase a pass online, visit First Night’s Web site by clicking here.

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