History

In the summer of 1990, Artsplosure’s Board of Directors committed to creating a special community New Year’s Eve celebration in downtown. First Night Raleigh was born, under the direction of Ann Smith, joining other cities worldwide in a joyful, family-oriented, alcohol-free New Year’s Eve celebration of the arts. Admission buttons, worn proudly by participants, make First Night Raleigh the most accessible, inexpensive and safest way to celebrate the New Year. Attendance was estimated for First Night Raleigh ’92 at 15,000-20,000 on December 31, 1991.

This amazing public response paved the way for plans to produce a bigger, more spectacular First Night Raleigh in years to come. The event has grown to be the largest New Year’s Eve event held in eastern North Carolina. Recent First Night celebrations have exceeded all expectations with attendance regularly over 40,000 people. The city’s Millennium Celebration (R2K) culminated with First Night Raleigh 2000, and attracted 75,000 people from all over the state.

In the years following R2K, First Night Raleigh has continued to thrive as an arts festival devoted to the Four Pillars of First Night: Celebration, Community, The New Year, and The Arts. First Night Raleigh has evolved with the changing environment of a revitalized and vibrant Downtown. It continues to use the city as a stage, presenting artists and performers in plazas, churches, museums, theatres, bank lobbies and street corners throughout two dozen blocks of Downtown Raleigh. First Night Raleigh 2012 saw a record-setting 80,000 revellers celebrate the dawn of the New Year in downtown Raleigh.

First Night came into existence in Boston in 1976 at the end of the country’s Bicentennial Celebration, to bring the neighboring communities of the city together in a joint celebration, while providing the public with an alternative way of ushering in the New Year. Since 1980, the concept has inspired many communities to start their own First Night celebrations in the United States. Currently First Night is celebrated in about 75 cities across the country.

fnusa_logoCurrent First Night cities across the United States are able to offer mutual support and gain insight through the efforts of First Night USA — The National Association of Community-based New Year’s Arts Festivals.

First Nights around the United States

CALIFORNIA
First Night Fullerton
First Night Temecula
First Night Monterey

CONNECTICUT
First Night Danbury
First Night Westport/Weston
First Night Hartford

FLORIDA
First Night St. Petersburg

ILLINOIS
First Night Evanston
First Night River Bend
First Night Springfield

IOWA
First Night Council Bluffs

MARYLAND
First Night Easton
First Night Talbot

MASSACHUSETTS
First Night Boston
First Night Chatham
First Night Northhampton
South Cape Village

MISSOURI
First Night St. Louis

MONTANA
First Night Flathead
First Night Missoula

NEW HAMPSHIRE
First Night Portsmouth

NEW JERSEY
First Night Haddonfield
First Night Morris County
First Night Mt. Holly

NEW YORK
First Night Buffalo
First Night Oneonta
First Night Saranac Lake
First Night Saratoga Springs

NORTH CAROLINA
First Night Raleigh

OHIO
First Night Akron
First Night Canfield
First Night Columbus
First Night Youngstown

PENNSYLVANIA
First Night Carlisle
First Night Pittsburgh
First Night State College

VERMONT
First Night Burlington

VIRGINIA
First Night Alexandria
First Night Charlottesville
First Night Harrisonburg
First Night Winchester

WASHINGTON
First Night Port Townsend
First Night Spokane
First Night Tri-Cities

WYOMING
First Night Casper