First Night Evanston to bring big crowd on New Year’s Eve

Ameesha Chandnani

It will be a cold winter, but a hot night in Evanston on Dec. 31.

First Night Evanston, Illinois’ largest New Year’s Eve festival, will showcase acts that include West Indian folk dancing, salsa rhythms and Irish bands. A total of 50 acts will perform on 22 indoor stages.

Organizers, who anticipate that about 8,000 people will attend the event, say this year’s performers bring a truly international flavor to New Year’s.

“It’s going to be a very exciting program,” festival director Lois Roewade said.

The festival’s “Island” theme will feature music from all genres as well as many different activities for families and children in the evening. Some of this year’s featured performers include the West Indian Folkdance Company, jazz artist Frankie Donaldson, Irish band Dyed in the Wool, Midway Rambler’s Cajun band, and the salsa sounds of Hector y Su Orquesta.

For children, there will also be face painting, storytelling, and balloon animals.

For the first time in the festival’s nine-year run, an outdoor stage will be set up at Fountain Square.

In keeping with the island theme, the stage will be decorated with a grass skirt, and at midnight 150 beachballs will float off the stage.

According to Roewade, First Night is the “the cheapest New Year’s Eve ticket you can find.”

For children 5 and under the event is free, for children ages 6 to 12 it is $6 and for people over 12 it is $12.

The event will begin at 6 p.m., and participants need a button to gain entrance to the activities. The button can be purchased at Dominick’s, Jewel, Barnes and Noble, and Borders stores beginning December 10. Parking for the event is free, with shuttles running continually.

According to Roewade, what keeps attracting people about the festival is diversity of the acts.

And she added that the family atmosphere, in which people can walk down the streets of Evanston with one another and celebrate the new year together, draws people to the festival year after year.

For more information about First Night Evanston, visit www.firstnightevanston.org or call the organization’s hotline at (847) 289-4248.