On New Year's Eve 2001, Spokane joined more than 200 cities and towns worldwide in celebrating First Night, a family-oriented, alcohol-free community event emphasizing the arts. In its inaugural year, First Night Spokane drew more than 13,000 participants to dozens of visual and performing arts events throughout downtown. This year, organizers plan more than 100 activities, and just one $10 button will get you in to all venues. (Children 10 and under are free when accompanied by a button-wearing adult, and group discounts are available.)
Throughout the afternoon, from 3-6 pm, the Children's Festival at the Spokane Convention Center hosts a full lineup of entertainment and hands-on activities for young revelers. Puppets, clowns and jugglers are always part of the fun, but there's lots to take part in, as well -- First Night activities often seek to blur the lines between audience and performer.
At 6 pm, the Grand Procession through downtown marks the beginning of the evening's festivities. This street pageant, in the spirit of Mardi Gras, features dancers, musicians, stilt-walkers, magicians and all manner of creative people promenading through the downtown streets to River Park Square for the Opening Ceremony. At 7 pm, participating venues all over downtown open for a vast array of visual and performing arts events. More than 30 sites, both indoors and out, will host events throughout the evening. At 11:30 pm, the arts events wrap up so First Nighters can make their way to Riverfront Park for a countdown to midnight, with music and fireworks to welcome in 2003.
An event like First Night Spokane cannot happen without the support of volunteers, and last year 250 people stepped forward to get things done. This year's event is expected to be even larger, so help is needed to do the many necessary jobs. To volunteer, call 218-3932 or check www.firstnightspokane.org. You can purchase your First Night button at Rosauers, Arby's, Tomlinson Black and other locations. You can find First Night programs at a variety of locations, or look for yours in The Inlander later in December.