First Night Annapolis is marking its 15th year

A local swing-funk band, salsa dancers, a parade of bagpipers, a slam poet and the Kenya Safari Acrobats are among the attractions at First Night Annapolis, the city's family-oriented New Year's Eve celebration that marks its 15th anniversary tomorrow night.

The alcohol-free event is a mix of old-fashioned and newfangled fun, said Robert Keil, executive director of First Night Annapolis Inc., a nonprofit arts organization that stages what adds up to a city street party of 20,000 people.


The extravaganza of singing, dancing, classical chamber music, face-painting and street theater is meant to engage all manner of folk, he said. It culminates with fireworks at City Dock.

"We gather them all in," Keil said. "The demographic doesn't matter, from the babe in arms to families with kids to the 89-year- old grandmother. It's a celebration of community by connecting people through the arts."


More then 40 sites downtown, mostly within walking distance or accessible by a free bus, will play host to about 60 performance or arts activities.

Keil, a special events planner who took the helm in May, is orchestrating his first First Night Annapolis, an annual affair that took hold in the state capital 15 years ago. Similar First Night gatherings are held in Boston, Atlanta, and nearly 150 towns and cities in the U.S., Great Britain, Canada and New Zealand, he said.

City officials said the Visitors Center will be open tomorrow night to sell tickets. Admission buttons are $15 for adults and $10 for children ages 6 to 12. Children ages 5 and younger will be admitted free.

Other Annapolis institutions, such as the St. John's College campus and the town's schools, churches, galleries and restaurants, are also slated to host activities or stay open later than usual. Parking and continuous shuttle bus service will be provided at the Navy-Marine Corps Stadium for $10.

Afternoon activities designed for children are to begin at 3 p.m. in the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts.

A flea circus will feature a man shooting out of a cannon, organizers said. The spectrum of adult, teen and family entertainment - ranging from a highbrow opera company to mellow folk-jazz fusion to four rock bands - is to start at 6 p.m. and end at midnight.

Unusual performers making their Annapolis debut are the Kenya Safari Acrobats and Southern Discomfort, an Atlanta-based musical satire troupe. Locally based arts group on the roster include the Colonial Players, scheduled to perform an original historical musical, "Amelia's Journey," about the aviator Amelia Earhart and her husband/promoter George Putnam.

Said communications manager Lisa Miles: "Everyone's going to have fun without the pressures and concerns of drinking."