BURLINGTON — First Night Burlington is the oldest celebration of its kind still standing after 31 years of keeping it fresh.
“We’re entering our fourth decade,” said Tom Ayres, the new executive director.
“We’re the oldest First Night celebration in the world. The original First Night was in Boston. The not-for-profit organization that ran that closed at end of April. It’s being run one more year by the City Parks Department. It’s not clear what the future holds. That leaves us as the oldest First Night organization in the world.”
Between 10,000 and 12,000 revelers will descend on the Queen City on Tuesday to ring in the new year. Between watching the blaze of fireworks at the Burlington Waterfront at 6 p.m. and midnight, they can enjoy 800 individual artists performing at 18 venues.
“All of those accessible with just a First Night adult and kid’s button,” Ayres said. “There are a couple of ticketed events that are over and above a First Night Button. It’s $4 a ticket. Those are typically the events that are the most in demand. It’s a way of guaranteeing access to them. We sell tickets to Circus Smirkus, the Vermont Youth Orchestra and Chorus, the Bluegrass Gospel Project and the House of LeMay, a drag cabaret and comedy troupe. Everything at First Night is family friendly. Unless your kids are very mature, avoid that one.”
Nearly a third of the acts are First Night Burlington first-timers including Kat Wright and the Indomitable Soul Band on the Flynn MainStage and the DuPont Brothers Band in FlynnSpace. Internationally acclaimed trumpeter Ray Vega and his hot-jazz band will also fire up the Flynn MainStage. Other notable newcomers include salsa standouts Afinque, Americana luminaries Michael Chorney and Hollar General, and Jamaican-rocksteady outfit Steady Bet.
First Night veterans include Jon Gailmor, Burlington Taiko, Paul Asbell and Very Merry Theatre. “Africa to Vermont” is a new and special program featuring African hip-hop trio A2VT, Somali Bantu “wedding band” Walinja, and the Burundian Women’s Dance Company.
“I wrote a grant for the Vermont Community Foundation,” Ayres said. “We were granted back in the summer a series of performances we called Africa to Vermont. It’s a musical group and dance company that is emerging from the community of the African Diaspora in the greater Burlington area. The Burundian Women’s Dance Company will perform traditional dances to Burundi to music of Burundi singers from the Burlington area. We’re presenting their first-ever concert in a traditional western context, a traditional wedding band from the Somali-Bantu community, Walinja. We’re also presenting the Ethiopian dance-rock band, New Nile Orchestra.”
A2VT stands for Africa to Vermont.
“They have a video,” Ayres said. It’s gone viral all over YouTube. It called my attention to them when I started programming this year.”
Ayres assumed his post May 20.
“I did all the fundraising working with my board and volunteers over the course of the summer,” he said. “It’s been a whirlwind six months. I’m thrilled to be back in the arts. It’s really great. I’m loving it.”
Email Robin Caudell:email@example.comIF YOU GO WHAT: First Night Burlington 2014. WHEN: Tuesday. WHERE: Various venues in Burlington, Vt. ADMISSION: First Night Burlington 2014 buttons are $20 for adults (ages 13 and older) and $5 for kids (ages 3 to 12). (Kids under 3 are admitted for free.) A special "Family Pack," consisting of two adult buttons and two kids buttons, is available through Dec. 15 at the discounted price of $42. TICKETS: $4 for Vermont Youth Orchestra and Chorus, Circus Smirkus, Burlington Taiko, the House of LeMay, Bluegrass Gospel Project. TO GET: Buttons and tickets are also available weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the First Night office, 230 College St., Burlington, Vt. In addition, buttons are also available at numerous outlets throughout northern Vermont and northeastern New York, including all Price Chopper, Hannaford and Shaw's supermarkets; WEBSITE: www.firstnightburlington.com. PHONE: (802) 863-6005.