- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 25, 2004

First Night Alexandria has grown in the past decade from a small celebration of the arts into a New Year’s Eve tradition. It’s 10th anniversary production on Friday will be its biggest party yet, says First Night Alexandria Executive Director Ann Dorman. A wide range of performers and activities will be spread throughout 28 venues in and around Old Town Alexandria.

“We’ve got some phenomenal acts this year,” Ms. Dorman says.

First Nights are community New Year’s Eve celebrations held throughout the country. They are alcohol-free, family-friendly celebrations that focus on the arts and community spirit.

Highlights of Alexandria’s party this year include salsa music by Pablo Antonio y la Firma in the atrium of the new U.S. Patent and Trademark Office building at 6000 Dulany St.; the return of Scottish fiddler Bonnie Rideout, who will perform three shows at the Masonic Temple; and expanded children’s programming.

There will be children’s music, puppet shows, face painting and other child-friendly events at the Mount Vernon Recreation Center (2701 Commonwealth Ave.)and at Jefferson-Houston School (1501 Cameron St.) beginning at 6 p.m.

A new event for youngsters this year is gutter races at the Seaport Foundation, 2 Duke St.

“Children can build mini-sailboats there and race them in the rain gutters,” Ms. Dorman says.

Alexandria will also have its annual teen event, planned and put on by local high school students.

Earlier in the year, teenage singers tried out for the program in an “American Idol”-style competition. The top 10 were chosen to perform on New Year’s Eve, and the top three First Night performers (chosen by a panel of parents and teachers), will receive cash prizes. The top winner will get a contract to perform at next year’s First Night Alexandria, Ms. Dorman says.

The teen talent show takes place at Durant Recreation Center, 1605 Cameron St.

First Night Alexandria will culminate with fireworks over the Masonic Temple at midnight.

In Maryland, historic Annapolis will be the place for First Night fun.

Some of the highlights at First Night Annapolis include Kenya Safari Acrobats at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts (801 Chase St.) and at St. John’s College; “Rock at the Rec,” a battle of the bands for teens at the Annapolis Rec Center (9 St. Mary’s St.); and comedy troupe Southern Comfort at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church.

First Act, First Night Annapolis’ children’s program and mini-New Year’s Eve celebration, begins at Maryland Hall at 3 p.m. There will be music, a flea circus and other activities for youngsters.

First Night Annapolis will conclude with fireworks over Spa Creek at midnight.

At First Night Leesburg, more than 100 acts will perform at 20 locations around downtown. Leesburg’s celebration ends with fireworks on the courthouse green at midnight. The new year will also be rung in with a grand illumination, where visitors will receive a candle, pass the flame to their neighbor and sing as the old courthouse bell rings the last 12 chimes to midnight.

When you go:

First Night is the alcohol-free community New Year’s Eve celebration that focuses on the arts.

Alexandria

Where: Performances and activities will take place in and around Old Town, including the Torpedo Factory, the Masonic Temple, Jefferson-Houston School and the new U.S. Patent and Trademark Office building.

Admission: Badges will get you in to all events. Badges are $15. Children younger than 12 enter for free when accompanied by a badge-wearing adult. Badges can be purchased prior to Friday at Burke & Herbert Bank branches, St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub, A Likely Story Book Store, Old Town locations of Virginia Commerce Bank, and at Ramsay House Visitors Center.

On Friday, badges can be purchased in the lobby of the Embassy Suites Hotel (1900 Diagonal Road) or at any of the venues.

Hours: 6 p.m. until midnight

Parking: Many Colonial Parking garages will have free parking. Free shuttle buses will also run from the King Street Metro station (Yellow and Blue lines).

Information: Phone 703/838-4200, Ext. 210; or click on www.firstnightalexandria.org.

Annapolis

Where: Annapolis events will be held all over the historic district, including Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts and St. John’s College.

Admission: Badges are $15 for those 12 and older ($20 on the day of the event). Children ages 6 to 12 enter for $10. Children 5 and younger enter for free.

Badges can be purchased at www.etix.com; at the Annapolis Visitors Center; Giant Food Stores in Anne Arundel County, Bowie and Columbia; and at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts. On Friday, badges can be purchased at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium parking lot ticket booth, Annapolis Visitors Center and City Dock kiosk.

Anne Arundel County Public Schools students will receive a voucher for a free children’s badge.

Hours: First Act, special programming for children, begins at Maryland Hall at 3 p.m. Other programming runs from 6 p.m. to midnight.

Parking: Visitors are encouraged to park at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium for $10 per car. Shuttle buses will run to downtown Annapolis and to Maryland Hall continuously.

Information: Phone 410/268-8554 or click on www.firstnightannapolis.org.

Leesburg

Where: Programming will take place in 20 venues in downtown Leesburg

Admission: Badges cost $8 for those 13 and older; $3 for children ages 3 to 12; and free for those younger than 3. Badges can be purchased at Loudoun Pharmacy, Loudoun Visitor Center, Bluemont Concert Series and the Loudoun Museum.

On Friday, badges can be purchased after 5 p.m. at First Night admissions booths on King and Market streets in downtown Leesburg. Buttons may also be purchased at some performance sites after 6 p.m. (cash and checks only).

Hours: 6 p.m. to midnight.

Parking: Many streets in downtown Leesburg will be closed for the event. Free parking is available on side streets and in two large town and county parking garages near downtown.

Information: Phone 703/777-6306 or click on www.bluemont.org.

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