The Second First Night

Want to be at the center of it all this New Year's Eve? Then head to the city center.

That's where you'll find the town's biggest New Year's Eve party: First Night, a family-friendly, alcohol-free festival that will grace much of downtown with music, art, dance, comedy, magic and all kinds of other entertainment; there are more than 50 live acts performing. This be the second annual event, and it should be bigger and better than last year's inaugural First Night—and last year, we are told by event organizers, was pretty great.

At some of the venues, you'll need a ticket to get in—or, more accurately, you'll need to wear your special First Night all-access button. One venue requiring buttons is the Armory Park Center, billed as the night's "teen venue," where young-adult-geared entertainment will include funny "physical theater" performer Wolfe Bowart, music by locally legendary "alt-alt country" band Golden Boots, and a teen dance party DJ'ed by Sid the Kid.

The Beowulf Alley Theatre—which will also require a button for admission—will host a long string of performances, from improv comedy by Not Burnt Out Just Unscrewed to a crazy retelling of Hamlet in 16 different ways (including a Jack Kerouac Hamlet, a Wizard of Oz-themed Hamlet and a Raiders of the Lost Ark-themed Hamlet).

Among other performances, the Tucson Convention Center's Leo Rich Theatre (admission button required) will offer Stories That Soar!, a literacy and performing-arts ensemble that transforms children's stories into stimulating theater for kids and adults. Meanwhile, the Fox Tucson Theatre (admission button required) will open its stage to some of the most famous musical artists in the city, including the Larry Redhouse Quartet, Ryanhood and Howe Gelb.

Would you rather see movies? The Screening Room (admission button required) will show 7 1/2 hours of films, including indie movies made by Tucson youth, 45 minutes of international shorts, animated pieces and special hours for drama and comedy.

As for free-admission venues, El Centro Cultural de las Americas will host an evening of Latin and American music by Grupo Latido and classical guitarist Gabriel Romo—and you can also buy traditional holiday Mexican food, like chili burros and hot chocolate. At La Placita Village, you can listen to music from all over the world, from bluegrass by the Greg Morton Trio to zydeco by Bayou Seco to rockabilly-surf-American roots music by El Camino Royales. The Tucson Museum of Art will offer many free activities, including a ceramics-studio open house, where you can play with clay; glass-blowing demonstrations from the Sonoran Art Glass Academy; a fire-dancing performance by Elemental Artistry; and a New Year's resolution community drawing and painting session. Hey, maybe if you draw your resolution, you'll stick to it!

Throughout the day and night, the Tucson Convention Center Plaza will host no fewer than nine bands you can see for free, including Loveland, The Wyatts, Kings of Pleasure and the Bad News Blues Band. You can also meet representatives (and animals!) from the Reid Park Zoo, partake in scientific experiments with The Physics Factory and check out wild kinetic sculptures from the Mat Bevel Institute.

And guess what will take place at the TCC Plaza at midnight? Fireworks!

"It's going to be a wonderful celebration," promises First Night volunteer coordinator Mia Hansen. "It's the kind of event that Tucson loves, because it's open to everybody; the venues are nonalcoholic, so you can bring your whole family and still see great bands; and all the locations are within walking distance of each other."

Adds Downtown Tucson Partnership vice president Cara Rene: "The festival features many of downtown's great historic entertainment venues, as well as our best local performers. ... First Night is a community celebration. I hope Tucsonans will support the effort so we can grow this event into something that everyone can enjoy for years to come."

First Night takes place throughout downtown Tucson starting at 4 p.m., Friday, Dec. 31. All-access admission buttons cost $12 for adults, $6 for children 6 to 12, and are free for children 5 and younger. Pick them up at Bookmans, the Tucson Convention Center box office, the Fox Tucson Theatre box office or online at For more information, including maps and a complete schedule of events, visit

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