WHAT BEGAN seven years ago as a smallish alcohol-free event of music and lively arts to usher in the New Year has now established itself as a grand Annapolis tradition. Maryland's state capital is about to greet the New Year with its seventh annual First Night.
From the beginning, First Night Annapolis' mission has been two-fold and similar to other cities that have employed this concept -- to showcase the arts and to promote a responsible, alcohol-free, community-wide New Year's celebration. More than 100 cities and towns throughout the nation now have similar Dec. 31 events.
First Night Annapolis typically attracts about 10,000 people from as far away as New York and North Carolina, but 20,000 turned out on an unseasonably warm New Year's Eve 1992.
As in past years, there will be an astounding number of events from which to choose. Organizers expect to stage 300 different performances. There will be piano recitals, jazz ensembles, ice dancing, swing bands, gospel singing, stilt dancing and poetry readings. The grand finale, staged at midnight to ring in the New Year, is a spectacular fireworks display at City Dock.
First Night actually begins in the afternoon at 3: 30 p.m. on New Year's Eve. There will be eight performances of the children's matinee, which is free to kids under 6 when accompanied by an adult wearing a First Night admission button. Admission buttons, $14 each, provide entry into all performances. Children under 2 are admitted free; children under 6 are admitted free to an afternoon performance.
All performers are paid, even though the event is supported entirely through admission button sales and contributions from sponsors.
We urge Marylanders to avail themselves of this cavalcade of artistic expression and see Annapolis at its most festive. Since First Night goes on regardless of weather, versatile clothing and comfortable shoes are a must.
But with large crowds, downtown Annapolis turns into a giant traffic jam. Experienced revelers will take advantage of free parking at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and state parking lots on Rowe Boulevard, which are connected with downtown venues by free shuttle buses.
Pub Date: 12/30/96