By Stephanie Choate
As 2014 winds to a close, several Williston residents are preparing to help Vermonters ring in the New Year at First Night Burlington.
First Night Burlington is Vermont’s largest, single-day arts festival, providing an accessible, affordable and substance-free New Year’s Eve celebration to thousands of locals.
“It’s a really wonderful depiction of how tightly knit our community is,” said Sarah Stickle, First Night production and artist relations manager. “It’s a great place to connect through music and art and have a great time with your family and closest friends and see your neighbors.”
A First Night button grants access to more than 20 venues for performances and activities for all ages. Events begin at 1 p.m. and run past midnight.
Williston-based Lyric Theatre is participating in First Night for the 20th year, presenting “Lyric Through the Ages,” with songs from its latest shows and biggest hits from the past, according to Executive Director Syndi Zook.
Lyric performs at 3 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church.
Williston resident and DJ Larry Brett will join Vermont public Radio’s Joel Najman for the “Rock Around the Clock” Sock Hop at Edmunds Middle School’s gymnasium from 7-8:30 p.m.
“Joel and I will be playing the dance hits from the ‘50s and ‘60s and bringing back great memories for those like us who were there when they were first played on the radio,” Brett wrote in an email to the Observer. “Elvis, Buddy, Chuck, Jerry Lee and Little Richard to name just a few of the rockers that will be getting a whole lot of shakin’ going on in the Edmunds gym New Year’s Eve. We hope all First Nighters will join in the fun, bring friends, relatives, kids and grandkids, too, they’ll have the time of their lives.”
He encouraged ladies to bust out poodle skirts and guys to slick their hair back and lace up a pair of Buster Browns.
“First Night Burlington has been a blast for young and old alike for 32 years through rain, snow, mild and cold weather,” Brett wrote. “Come on down to downtown Burlington and jitterbug, do the twist, stroll the floor at Edmunds Middle School Wednesday night.”
Williston drummer Scott Dean’s band, Afinque, is set to go on at the Contois Auditorium at 8 p.m. Afinque is an 11-piece, classic salsa band that pays tribute to the sounds of New York’s famed Palladium club and the great Fania record label.
Beyond watching your neighbors perform, Stickle said there are events for every kind of music and art lover.
“One of our exciting new events is Ray Vega,” Stickle said. “He’s a local jazz phenom debuting his new jazz project.”
The Ray Vega concert, taking place at the FlynnSpace, requires a ticket in addition to the First Night button.
Other highlights include Circus Smirkus, Burlington Taiko drummers, Kat Wright and the Indomitable Soul Band and Myra Flynn. A dancing dragons parade heads down Church Street at 5 p.m. Family fireworks light up the sky at 5:40 p.m. and more fireworks go off at midnight on Church Street.
“We have lots of great acts in tons of different genres,” Stickle said. “There really is something for everybody this year—old time music to jazz to hip hop and some rock bands.”
Stickle said organizers also grouped kids activities together, so parents can avoid having to be outside in the cold with their little ones.
Free parking is available at the University of Vermont Gutterson parking garage, and free shuttles are available.
Adult buttons, which grant access into most events, are $15. Child buttons are $5. Children under 3 get in for free.
For more information and a complete list of events, visit www.firstnightburlington.com.
By Stephanie Choate