Yes, that's right! First Night St. Johnsbury is now officially "First Night North in St. Johnsbury."
For the past twenty-three New Year's Eves, First Night St. Johnsbury has transformed the town into a multi-stage theater where some 3,000 revelers of all ages come out from all over the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont and the North Country of New Hampshire and beyond to enjoy the region's largest arts showcase. To shine a spotlight on how our festival of the arts has become a region-wide phenomenon here up North, we have changed the name to reflect that happy fact.
Although we have rebranded the event we are still offering the same unique brand of first-class entertainment in a festive and alcohol-free way that celebrates the arts and culminates in a spectacular fireworks display! Our 24th annual New Year's celebration promises to be the best ever.
For one thing, we are making it easier for people to find their way around on one of the darkest nights of the year. We plan to light up some of the darkest areas with glowing luminaria lanterns. The 13 buildings hosting our 18 performance venues are going to be pointed out by brightly-lit First Night North signs designed and manufactured by The Foundry. This creative "Makers" group are also making the shuttle service more accessible, and certainly more visible, with dazzling decorative lights.
But we are not going to make it any easier to figure out how to allot your New Year's Eve time. The First Night North in St. Johnsbury 2017 line-up is packed with nearly one hundred shows by 340 performers in 54 different acts. Of these acts, 20 are making their First Night debuts, and four more are returning after several years' hiatus.
This amazing array of artists are singer-songwriters and choruses, bands and an orchestra, comedy troupes and stand-up comics, poets and puppeteers, storytellers and galaxy guides, modern dancers and fire dancers, organists and pianists, a harpist and a guitarist, a magician and a hypnotist, and maybe a few more!
As always, the majority of First Night artists are musicians. Our region's rich musical scene features about as many genres as you can shake a stick, or a conductor's baton, at -- classical and pop, early and contemporary, folk and rock, jazz and bluegrass, sacred and silly, covers and originals, opera and, well, others.
It all takes place from 4 pm to midnight. First Night falls on Saturday this year, so come early and stay late to take in as much entertainment as you can in eight hours, plus those intense fireworks in the first 20 minutes of 2017.
And with New Year's Day on a Sunday, we have lined a series of events to celebrate the holiday: a worship service, two special dances, and a polar bear dip in a freezing lake!
First Night North is a new name, but Catamount Arts, after eight years, is a tried and true manager of the event. Director Jody Fried welcomes Ashley Van Zandt to help coordinate the First Night team of other staff and volunteers. We are all working together to fulfill Catamount Arts' mission to "inspire appreciation of and participation in the arts, promote the arts throughout the region, and cultivate the arts as an integral part of community life."
And so I close with my perennial, pre-emptive Happy New Year!