The Downtown Tucson Partnership has spent the last six months planning Tucson's First Night, aimed at offering festive entertainment for the entire family, including several magic shows, live music and an explosive finale.
"We felt like there was a need for an alternative New Year's Eve celebration for Tucsonans—something that's community-based and family-friendly," said Cara Rene, the newly appointed vice president of community development for the Downtown Tucson Partnership. "It is really an eclectic arts and culture festival that is perfect for young families and adults of all ages."
If the concept for First Night sounds familiar, it's because First Night is a tradition that began in Boston and has since spread to dozens of major cities around the country.
"More than 100 American cities do First Night festivals on New Year's Eve," Rene said. "It started in Boston in 1976, and it has just taken off with extensive community involvement, and while ours will be on the smaller scale in this inaugural year, our hope is to grow it in a similar way in years to come."
First Night is a festival that aims to bring families together and provide them with multicultural entertainment, dancing, singing, laughing and overall wonderment.
"Having it downtown gives us the opportunity to showcase our performance venues for those who are not familiar with them, and this is the perfect avenue for people to see the changes that are happening downtown," Rene said.
First Night will begin with free parking starting at 3 p.m., followed by entertainment and festivities from 4 p.m. to midnight. Performance locations include the Leo Rich Theatre (Hispanic-influenced music), the Scottish Rite Cathedral (music and a children's magic show), the Children's Museum and Beowulf Alley Theatre. Visitors are asked to buy buttons which will serve as tickets to the venues.
There will also be a variety of free outdoor entertainment offered from 4 p.m. to midnight, in the main courtyard of La Placita Village and outside of the Leo Rich Theatre.
"This is a chance to celebrate New Year's Eve in a very different way." Rene said. "We encourage people to come down and give First Night a try. Of course, we're hoping people will buy buttons, because we need community support if this is going to happen again next year, but for those who can't, there is still free entertainment, and we want people to come and experience it."
For families with small kids, the Children's Museum will have a magic show, a hip-hop dance performance and a puppet show. Children will also be able to decorate souvenirs for the final countdown. At Beowulf Alley, families can enjoy a children's sing-along, an improv-comedy skit, and music from Lisa Otey and Diane Van Deurzen, and Angel Diamond and the Blues Disciples.
"There is such a variety of entertainment, and there really is something for everybody," Rene said. "Everything that's starting off in the very early hours will be geared more toward parents and kids. It's all going to be family-friendly, but we've got a lot of stuff that's really kid-friendly in the beginning."
A midnight countdown will take place in the courtyard of the Leo Rich Theatre, with Brazilian-inspired music and a dance group performing until midnight.
"The grand finale will be a really dynamic laser-light show which is free, and everybody is encouraged to have a good time and hang out together and celebrate the New Year," Rene said.
Performances at each venue are 45 minutes long, and seating will be first-come, first-served. After each show, audiences will be cleared for those next in line. Free party favors will be available to help set a festive mood, and there will be plenty of First Night volunteers to help.
"It's an alcohol-free event and therefore provides a needed alternative to the traditional party scene," Rene said. "We're telling people not to be deterred from coming to First Night if they want that traditional party scene, because all the downtown bars and restaurants will be open all night."
First Night buttons cost $12 for adults, and $6 for kids 6 to 12 years old. Admission is free for kids 5 and younger. Paid admission allows entry to all indoor venues. Buttons can be purchased at any Food City or Bookmans location, the Fox Tucson Theatre or online.