Springfield Area Arts Council

Springfield Area Arts Council announces 35th Annual First Night© Springfield

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Downtown Springfield once again will celebrate New Year’s Eve with fireworks, crafts, entertainment, and fun for all.

December 31st marks the 35th year the Springfield Area Arts Council has hosted this local celebration of the arts, a family-friendly event enjoyed by tens of thousands since 1987.

“We are proud and excited to offer this event to our capital city again,” said Sheila Walk, Arts Council executive director, adding most activities will take place inside the Hoogland Center for the Arts at 420 South Sixth Street.

Younger folks are invited for artful activities free of charge from 1:00 to 4:00 P.M. on New Year’s Eve at the Hoogland.  These afternoon events are presented by Creative Reuse Marketplace, Dana-Thomas House, Garvey-Tubman Center, Illinois State Museum, Lincoln Memorial Gardens, Lowe’s, Springfield Art Association, and YMCA.  Springfield Dance also will perform.  No pre-registration is required.

Friday Night Jazz, free music sponsored for decades by the Arts Council, will take place in early evening at Boone’s, 301 West Edwards (just west of the Illinois State Museum) from 5:30 to 7:30 featuring Stone Cold Blues Band.  Boone’s offers drinks and food for sale; there is no cover charge.

First Presbyterian Church at 321 South Seventh Street will host a locally-written play by Robert Davis to mark Watch Night, an African-American tradition.   It recalls the vigil leading to January 1, 1863, when Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freed southern Blacks held in slave bondage.  The play will be performed at 6:00 P.M.  Also in the church sanctuary, at 7:00 P.M., organist and music historian Paula Romanaux will perform works by modern African-American composers.  There is no charge for these First Presbyterian performances, although donations will be accepted.

From 7:00 P.M. to 11:00 P.M., many entertainments will roll out inside the Hoogland Center.  Those groups already set to perform include Capital City Improv, International Brotherhood of Magicians Ring 239, Spencer Films, Springfield International Folk Dancers, Springfield Muni, and the host Arts Council; other performance groups may be added soon.  Sangamon Watercolor Society will exhibit members’ work in the gallery.  Tickets are $5 for youth and $20 for adults.  They may be purchased at the door or in advance by going to Hoogland’s website:  www.hcfta.org.

Performances will take place on several stages inside Hoogland’s spacious four floors.  Guests will receive detailed schedules upon arrival.

Arena Food Services will provide light refreshments for sale during both afternoon and evening in the Hoogland Center lobby.

“While we are thrilled to bring these talents to our Springfield community, especially after their absence for so many months, we still are mindful of pandemic protocols,” commented director Walk.  “We will have masks and sanitizer for everyone who needs them and ask our guests to keep one ballet leap apart whenever they can.”

Fireworks will start shortly after the conclusion of activities inside the Hoogland, at 11:15 P.M.  People are invited to gather at the intersection of Capitol Avenue and Fourth Street for the show, which will end in time to reach other destinations for the stroke of midnight.

“Springfield can take pride that this family-friendly, alcohol-free, and fully-accessible New Year’s Eve celebration has so many partners,” Walk said.  She named the City of Springfield for assisting with the fireworks display, the Abraham Lincoln Association for sponsoring the Watch Night play, and the Hoogland Center for providing rent-free performance space annually for seventeen years.  Walk added that the Arts Council will share proceeds from this First Night with the Hoogland Center.

Walk also noted the passing in 2021 of two men long associated with this local celebration of the arts.  Springfield Police Sergeant Robert “Bob” Dilley worked First Night for years and after his retirement volunteered to staff the event’s operations center in the Arts Council office.  Carl “Boom Boom” Steinmacher was lead pyro-technician of all but one of Springfield’s 34 First Nights.  “Both these fine people are missed,” said Walk.