When First Night returns to Missoula’s downtown from 3 p.m. to midnight Friday, Dec. 31, it marks the 28th annual New Year’s Eve celebration of the arts in Missoula.
“A year ago, we were all sequestered in our homes on New Year’s Eve, and while we were able to watch the annual Spotlight High School singing competition virtually, we were not able to ring in the New Year as a community, as we had done for 25 years,” writes Arts Missoula Executive Director Tom Benson. “We are excited to see this annual festival make a comeback.”
In a nod to the pandemic, a more modest celebration is on tap this year, with performances and activities largely confined to the downtown area. The new Missoula Public Library serves as First Night headquarters and other venues include Zootown Arts Community Center (ZACC), West Side Theater, Free Cycles, All Souls Missoula, AC Hotel and Break Espresso.
Special events include an Ice Carving Competition from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at the AC Hotel with a demo from noon-3 p.m. at Absolute Zero Ice Designs. The First Night Spotlight, an annual high school vocal competition, begins at 7 p.m. at ZACC.
“Blossoms on Blossoms” – an iron foundry performance – starts at 6 p.m. at Free Cycles, which also hosts music by Sun Dog North, Pinegrass and Lochwood from 6-9 p.m.
In “Blossoms on Blossoms,” Jesse Blumenthal of Industrial Arts MT and his cohort of artists toss wooden spoonfuls of molten iron against large, flat silhouettes of lotus flowers to create an explosion of firebrands reminiscent of blossoming flowers. Performances will take place every 15 minutes using half a ton of hand recycled and processed iron.
The Ed Norton Big Band will close out the celebration, ringing in the New Year at the library. The library also hosts myriad children’s activities, and music by the Celtic Dragon Pipe Band at 6 p.m. and the Drum Brothers at 8 p.m.
The Finn Carroll Trio and John Floridis entertain at the DC Hotel, and soloists and ensembles take turns at Break Espresso, beginning at 5 p.m. All Souls Missoula hosts a Comedy Show at 7 p.m. with five performers.
A peace luminaria shines in the garden behind the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center from 4 p.m.-midnight; Currents Aquatic Center offers free admission to button holders; the Glacier Ice Rink supplies free skate rentals and hot chocolate; and the Roxy Theater is home to a Kung Fu Movie Marathon, beginning at noon.
“We’re asking everyone to wear masks and respect each other as well as the venue hosts,” writes Benson. “We are a community, after all, and I’m sure we can once again ring in the New Year collectively in a safe and sane manner.”
Admission buttons are available at locations throughout Missoula and in the Bitterroot Valley, and are $10 in advance (children 10 and under free). Buttons are $12 on Dec. 31. The First Night schedule and all information is available at www.artsmissoula.org