First Night Austin

100,000 revelers can't be wrong

If you've yet to solidify those party plans for the last evening of 2009, and the prospect of watching the ball drop with Dick Clark and Ryan Seacrest yet again has you gagging on your eggnog, why not join the throngs at First Night Austin? The free New Year's Eve street party has a parade, fireworks, music, and, most importantly, all kinds of wild and funky art projects – in past years, a ginormous eyeball on a water tower, a three-story burning clock, a glowing dragon on Lady Bird Lake – that you just won't see any of the other 364 days of the year. And considering that the event typically draws about 100,000 people, you can count on being in good company (which is more than you can say about New Year's Rockin' Eve, right?). This year, some 850 local creatives will be contributing their talents to the celebration over the eight hours between 4pm and midnight, and in honor of First Night's fifth anniversary, organizers have arranged a party-within-the-party, the Long First Night, on the outdoor City Terrace and the mezzanine inside the Long Center for the Performing Arts. A $20 ticket gets you access to the Long Center, cash bars and food, bands and DJs, and a children's activities area; a $110 VIP ticket includes the same, plus access to open bars, complimentary buffets and chef's stations, and a private shindig. Tickets are available at and

This year's event stretches from Congress Avenue at Fifth Street down to Cesar Chavez, along Cesar Chavez to the South First Street bridge, across it to Riverside Drive, and across Auditorium Shores. The fun starts at 4pm with the traditional Family Festival. At 6pm, the Grand Procession starts at Fifth and Congress and proceeds to Auditorium Shores, where, at 8pm, Community Art Makers – the folks who brought you 2009's Resolution Clock – will ignite Dorothy, their 36-foot-tall tornado of colored flame, and Wolf Stuntworks will provide snow. At 9pm, look for the Waterlight Parade, an illuminated procession of boats on Lady Bird Lake provided by the Austin Rowing Club. Then, runners can get in their last race of the year at 10pm with the First Night Run, a 3K run through Downtown organized by RunTex. At 11:30pm, a unique Vespa painted by artist Sheri Mays and autographed by cinemaster Richard Linklater will be raffled off in front of City Hall. Then, when the clocks hit midnight ... what else? Fireworks.

Other highlights to tempt you:

Thirst, From Loss to Grace – Diverse Space Dance Theatre's choreographic tribute to Austin creatives who died in 2009 (among them Lucia Rodriguez, Tina Marsh, Amy Farris, and Robin Shivers). Toni Bravo, Sharon Marroquin, Orlando Casnove, and Christopher Swain provide choreography to music by the Creative Opportunity Orchestra and Russ Smith.

• The combined forces of the Austin Civic Chorus and Austin Vocal Arts Ensemble sing Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus," the finale of Beethoven's Ninth, and Orff's "O Fortuna" from Carmina Burana.

The Human Powered, Road Going, Viking Boat by EGAD Adventure Capital.

• Dale Jenssen's 11-foot-tall, illuminated, interactive spaceship sculpture.

• An installation of sounds and swings whose lights change color by artists Danielle and Jason Mika, technical wizard Joe Martin, and audio composer Jonathan Sylvan.

• A 20-foot-by-20-foot luminous cube by Richard Philips.

• A 35-foot-long Art Bus created by high school students from Club Arthouse working with local artist Cybil Guess.

• Art cars by Rebecca Bass (Dragon Z), Bonnie Blue (Women Rock Art Car), Terry Brooks (Illuminaughty), Kenny Browning (Iron Maiden), Kim Ritter (the Peace Expedition), and Nicole Strine (Shattered Vanity).

• Music by Artificial Life Preserver, cellist Steve Bernal, the Blue Hit, Stephanie Briggs, the Daze, Foot Patrol, Gravelwhip, Hipnautica, Ky Hote, the Oziene Experience, the Austin branch of the Paul Green School of Rock, the Peterson Brothers Band, Ashleigh Stone, and Tres Womack & the Chubby Knuckle Choir.

• Contributions from past First Night participants such as Austin Bike Zoo, Austin Shakespeare, Austin Taiko, and Texas Juggling Society.

For more information, visit

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First Night Austin, Long Center for the Performing Arts, Community Art Makers, Diverse Space Dance Theatre, Toni Bravo, Sharon Marroquin, Creative Oportunity Orchestra, Austin Civic Chorus, Austin Vocal Arts Ensemble

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