Looking for a party to go to this New Year's in Annapolis? Here's a hot tip. It's local, easy to find, full of variety, and you can afford to take the whole family.

The address is easy to locate -- just look for the Historic District.

The name of the party is "First Night Annapolis."

The event, which its organizers hope will start an annual tradition in the city, will cover the area from Duke of Gloucester Street past St.

Mary's Street, around the Annapolis City Dock, over toward the Naval Academy, Paca House, Maryland Avenue, then down College Avenue toward Church Circle.

About 20 acts will be performing 45-minute sets at 15 sites throughout the area.

Similar to a number of annual events in cities across the United States and Canada, the festivities making their Annapolis debut are intended to provide a safe, largely non-alcoholic, accessible and fun way to start the New Year.

"It is a New Year's celebration through the lively arts," said event co-creator Elizabeth Welch, zwho with partner Lanna Nelson also runs an Annapolis-based marketing and special events promotional business. They first started serious planning for the event last January.

She described it as "a wonderfully magical, affordable, family-oriented way to spend the New Year. The city becomes a stage, with performances throughout the city in historic buildings, in the churches, in the government buildings -- the Paca House for example. Even the Annapolis Post Office, the State House and the County Court House will be stages this year."

"But it's not an original idea with us," said Nelson, "It started in Boston in 1976, and I think by about 1985 it had spread to nine other cities -- and last year it was in 50 other cities."

Intrigued by news reports, Welch and Nelson investigated the idea. They decided that it was ideally suited for Annapolis because "it is the state capital, and also because we have the ability to provide the direction needed by an event of this scope," Nelson said.

The partners created a non-profit, 150-member professionally managed and volunteer-staffed organization that has been working to pull First Night Annapolis together over the past year.

The effort has generated a wide level of volunteer and financial support from the public and private sectors. Organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, First National Bank, Maryland National Bank, Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., the Jaycees, the Junior League, C & P Community Relations Committee, Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Nationwide Insurance Co.

have been especially supportive.

During the night, "there will be entertainment as people move from venue to venue," Nelson said. "Weather permitting, there will be street entertainment. Some of our performers will be showcased in windows on Main Street. But the indoor performances are the main performances."

"We've put performers in the improbable spots," Welch said. "These are interesting sites, as well as interesting performers and performances.

We're exposing audiences to the arts in a way that they've not been exposed before."

The entertainment, all paid performers, will include dance, mime, music of all types, folklore, ice dancing and even ice sculpture. Three 15-foot creations will materialize during the course of the evening at the Annapolis City Dock.

"The thing about First Night that I think is really fascinating," said Nelson, "is that it's a sampler. None of the performances are very long, the maximum is 45 minutes, and it's an opportunity for people to sample the kind of music and the kind of performances that normally would not bring them out on a New Year's Eve. It exposes them to new performers and the performers to new audiences."

But despite the brevity of each indoor event, and the potential availability of street theater, the partners caution that First Night Annapolis should not be confused with a free smorgasbord of the lively arts.

"There's much than anyone could do in one evening. So you really do have to pick and choose. The admission to all the indoor performances is one First Night button, and the button is $8," Welch said.

"There's an entire evening of entertainment available. For people who do the traditional kind of celebration -- dinner, parties, going to bars -- there's still room for First Night. We want people to make this a part of their New Year's Eve celebration."

Children's performances will start at 4:30 p.m., followed by continuous seated indoor performances for the older crowd from 6:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.

At midnight, fireworks, church bells and bagpipes playing "Auld Lang Syne" will welcome 1991.

Buttons can be purchased from participating businesses, including First National Bank of Maryland, Maryland National Bank, the Casual Furniture stores in Edgewater, Glen Burnie and Timonium and Blockbuster Video.

In Annapolis, buttons can be purchased at Hats In The Belfrey, Lee's Ice Cream Parlor, McGarvey's, Fawcetts, Fleet Feet Sports, Pediatrics After Dark, Fit To A Tee, Econolodge, Howard Johnson's and the Anne Arundel Trade Council.

Information: 266-1197.

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