Annapolis plans First Night festivities tomorrow


A local swing-funk band, salsa dancers, a parade of bagpipers, a slam poet and the Kenya Safari Acrobats will be 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 every year.

The extravaganza of singing, dancing, classical chamber music, face-painting and street theater is meant to engage all types of people, 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 than 40 sites in the downtown area, most within walking distance or accessible by a free bus, will play host to about 60 performance and 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 United States.

City officials said the Visitors Center will be open tomorrow night to sell tickets and direct people, who are expected from Baltimore, the Eastern Shore, Washington and elsewhere. Admission buttons are $15 for adults, and $10 for children ages 6 to 12. Children 5 and younger are admitted free.

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

Afternoon activities for children begin at 3 p.m. in Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts. There will be a flea circus featuring a man being shot out of a cannon, organizers said. The entertainment starts at 6 p.m. and goes until midnight.

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

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

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