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Ringing in the New Year with First Night St. Petersburg

By Kelly Church

First Night St. Petersburg is a not-for-profit organization celebrating the creativity of St. Petersburg, FL residents. First Night has a long history of art festivals in other cities. It started in Boston, MA in 1975 by a group of community organizers and artists who wanted an opportunity to explore social events other than the New York party scene on New Year's Eve. Together, they came up with First Night, a festival with experimental methods of art that show local talent.

"First Night St. Petersburg was started in 1993 by a group of community leaders, artists and citizens who had heard about and/or attended First Night celebrations in other cities and wanted to have one in St. Petersburg," says Allen Loyd, Executive Director of First Night St. Petersburg.

This year's festival will be held on Thursday, December 31 from 4 p.m. until midnight and takes place in more than 25 venues throughout downtown. The organization's website says First Night St. Petersburg is the largest First Night celebration across the state, offering plenty of safe and family-friendly fun on New Year's Eve.

"The festivities will begin with FirstKids from 4-7 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church with hat and mask making, the Second Time Arounders Musical Petting Zoo and Giant puppets created with the Morean Center for Clay Summer Campers," says Loyd. "St. Pete Makers will host an LED light making station and teach you how to add a simple LED light to your New Year's Eve chapeau! There will be Science Shows by Mad Science. FirstKids will finish with a colorful procession with Giant Sea Creature Puppets to the waterfront at 7:15pm led by the Mount Zion Drumline and Color Guard just in time for the Bubble Stomp and the First Fireworks at 8 p.m."

To get patrons excited for the night, the community's "treasured" library, Mirror Lake Community Library, will host a Literary Carnival. There will be a tree climbing celebration, ice-skating and a drum circle. The night will be capped with New Year's resolutions at the Resolution Bonfire and James Oleson's Resolution Fire Sculpture.

Additionally, First Night St. Petersburg hires food vendors to set up along several points of the property. Loyd says that the food isn't the focus of the event. Most people like to move around to see their favorite performers and just "grab a fast bite along the way."

Loyd says the event is an opportunity for the community to explore the history of the place they live. Venues involved not only include important cultural and historical landmarks for the area, but also events that are designed to educate: the Cathedral of St. Peter, the Museum of Fine Arts Colonnade, the St. Petersburg Museum of History and St. Petersburg Preservation.

"One of First Night's missions is to promote the wealth of local talent, artists and performers here in the Tampa bay area," says Loyd. "We feel that our artistic community enhances the quality of life here in our community."

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