STATE JOURNAL-REGISTER, 12/27/18
32nd First Night Springfield dedicated to its founder
By Tamara Browning, Staff Writer
llinois’ longest running New Year’s Eve celebration of the arts will note milestones this year as it remembers the woman who was its founder.
The Springfield Area Arts Council will present First Night Springfield Dec. 31 with activities and performances at several performance spaces in five different venues in Springfield.
It’s the city’s 32nd annual New Year’s Eve celebration of the arts, thanks to the forethought of the late Kay Feurer, to whom this year’s event is dedicated.
Feurer, who died Oct. 18, was executive director of the Springfield Area Arts Council when First Night Springfield was founded as the first one in Illinois. First Night originated in Boston in 1976 as a family friendly New Year’s Eve celebration.
Kay Feurer and her son, Jeff Feurer, flew out to Boston in 1985 when Jeff was 15.
“We actually went to the First Night, and we also went to Worcester, Massachusetts, which is right next door,” said Jeff, who lives in Sherman.
“I kind of checked out like more of the kid/teen stuff kind of, and she checked some stuff out, and then we checked a bunch out together. That kind of gave her an idea of what to do to bring it here.”
Jeff Feurer said his mother never wanted recognition for anything.
“It wasn’t just her. It was a lot of people over the years. The community deserves credit for keeping this alive as long as they have,” Jeff Feurer said. “It is a great alternative to a normal New Year’s Eve party.”
Sheila Walk, Springfield Area Arts Council’s interim executive director, said First Night Springfield has been ongoing for 32 years due to support from the community and a local nonprofit.
“Those two things have to work in tandem. The Springfield Area Arts Council could stage a wonderful event, a wonderful celebration of the arts, but if the community didn’t continue to come out to support it, it wouldn’t be worth our while,” Walk said.
“It’s also our biggest fundraiser of the year, and likewise, if the arts council did not have access to real talent in this area, then we couldn’t put on an event that would bring the community in.”
About 3,000 people attended First Night Springfield last year.
About $7,000 was raised last year (all performers are paid). Walk said First Night is a “cultural buffet, a very rich cultural pool.”
First Night Springfield has a mix of returning and new performers this year.
Among new performers will be Curt Smith with vocals and acoustic guitar (6 p.m. at Hoogland Center for the Arts); Square of the Roots Band, a bluegrass band (starting at 8:30 at Lincoln Library); Pam Brown, a one-woman show portraying Mary Lincoln (5 p.m. Hoogland Center for the Arts); and The Dandelion Pickers, folk music (7 p.m. at Lincoln Home Visitor Center).
“We do pay attention to diversity — gender and ethnic and age — not only to please the audience but also to match our mission that we pay attention to that in all that we do,” Walk said. “We’ll have the Dazzlers Dance Company. We’ll also have marimba.
We’ll have country music from the U.S., and country music out of Brazil.”
Walk said First Night can be an introduction to the local arts.
“You might think, ‘Well, I don’t know if I want to pay all that money to go to a magic show or to go to the ballet, but I can see a 45-minute magic show, a 45-minute ballet all in the same evening for the same $20,’ ” Walk said. “Hopefully, they will then invest in a ticket purchase in 2019 for a full evening of ballet or a full evening of magic or a full evening of jazz.”