First Night celebration still going strong

By Malcolm X Abram
Beacon Journal staff writer

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Fireworks light up the sky over Lock 3 as the city rings in 2010 in Akron. (Beacon Journal file photo)

For nearly 20 years, First Night Akron has offered up music, art, fireworks and other forms of entertainment for New Year’s Eve revelers who want to keep the party family-friendly.

The event presented by Downtown Akron Partnership has survived in Akron despite having died off in many other cities and towns. Akron will celebrate its 18th First Night on Tuesday.

“It’s stayed strong through 17 years and I think the community just likes what happens down here,” said Sharon Gillberg, communications director for Downtown Akron Partnership.

“I think they like to come together and experience art and entertainment. There’s a real strong sense of community when you’re down here, and I think that resonates with people,” Gillberg said noting the quality of entertainment, reasonable admission prices and of course, fireworks!

She said First Night Akron organizers are constantly fighting complacency and always trying to mix things up for the regular attendees and First Night first timers.

“There is a science, but then we’re still coming up with new ideas and different things to do to keep it fresh,” Gillberg said.

For First Night 2014, the partnership has added a few new attractions. The Gospel Meets Symphony Choir will give a preview concert of its annual winter show at the Akron Civic Theatre at 6 p.m., and local indie rock/folk trio the Shivering Timbers will also perform two sets at the Civic at 7:15 and 8:15.

Over at the John S. Knight Center, there will be a disc jockey providing music for karaoke, and on South Main Street the Ohio Mobile Gaming company will have its OMG Party Truck available. It features 10 screens, four computers, five gaming stations with X-Box 360s with Kinect and Nintendo Wii consoles, a photo booth and digital jukebox.

“We figure that will be pretty popular,” Gillberg said.

Along with the new entries, old favorites will be back including Beatles tribute band A Hard Day’s Night — which fills the Civic each year — and performances by the O’Hare School of Irish Dance at the Akron-Summit County Main Library. There will also be plenty of arts and “make-and-take” crafts for the kids along with magicians, jugglers, improv and theater troupes, and of course the 9 p.m. fireworks for the kids and the midnight fireworks extravaganza for the grown folks.

Since it will be Dec. 31 in Northeast Ohio, the elements will be a factor for folks trying to decide if they’re willing to come downtown and weather the weather. But Gillberg said a common misconception about First Night Akron is that revelers will be forced to stay outside.

“Really, with the exception of the main stage activities, the other nine venues are all indoors, so 90 percent of the experience is inside,” Gillberg said, also noting that METRO will have several shuttle buses ferrying button-holding First Nighters from venue to venue.

Malcolm X Abram can be reached at mabram@thebeaconjournal.com or 330-996-3758. Read his blog, Sound Check Online, at www.ohio.com/blogs/sound-check, or follow him on Twitter @malcolmxabram.


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