For many people First Night Virginia has become the last word in welcoming the new year.
This New Year’s Eve will mark the 31st time the annual extravaganza will be featuring an array of entertainment from music to magic. Festivities start at 3 p.m. Monday and will continue up to the Disco Ball Drop on Main Street as the final minutes of 2012 are counted down.
A wristband provides access to all the events. Until New Year’s Eve, the wristbands are $15 for adults, $5 for children, and $35 for a family pack that admits two adults and two children. On Dec. 31, adult tickets go up to $18, and $42 for the family pack. Children 5 and younger are admitted free.
Prior to New Year’s Eve, wristbands can be purchased online at www. Firstnightva.org. On the day of the event they can only be purchased at the Omni Charlottesville Hotel.
“We have an amazing lineup of performances and activities for this year’s event,” said Drake Van de Castle, president of FNV. “First Night continues to be an affordable, family-friendly celebration of the arts.”
Through the years FNV has established itself as something of a grand block party centered on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall. It provides an opportunity for neighbors to gather and celebrate the kinship of community.
Past FNV have enriched memories with brilliant performances. Duane Cassis serves on FNV’s board of directors and also is the entertainment coordinator.
“I think First Night brings people together in a special way,” Cassis said. “It also gives local artists and performers an opportunity to perform for the people in their community.
“The majority of the performers are local, but we also bring in people from outside the area. For example, a terrific magician, Jason Bishop, will be presenting two shows at the Paramount Theater.”
The only reserved seating this year will be for the Jason Bishop shows. He will be presenting his award-winning illusions at 4:15 and 7:30 p.m. Reserved seats are $4 and can be purchased at the Paramount Theater’s box office or online at www.theparamount.net.
The magician Monticup has been amazing people with his magic for more than 40 years. He will be performing in the Omni ballroom at 3 and 4:15 p.m.
FNV continues its tradition of offered music in a multitude of genres. Charlottesville Ballet will present special performances of “The Nutcracker” designed especially for young children and families at 3 and 4:15 p.m. at Christ Episcopal Church.
The bands Love Canon and Groove Train will be performing at the Main Street Arena. Also in the musical lineup are the Eli Cook Band, Ban Caribe, Greg Howard Uptet, Billy Caldwell, Barb Martin CVHAM Blues Review, Dr. Levine and the Dreaded Blues Lady, In Vivo, Skyline Harmony Chorus, Salute to Swing and Acme Swing Mfg. Company.
Patrons have happily braved rain, cold and snow to participate in FNV. Other years, the weather has cooperated and temperatures have been springlike.
What always can be counted on are shrieks of recognition as old friends spot one another in the crowds. The entertainment attracts the patrons, but it’s the community spirit the event radiates that makes it so popular with many people.
FNV is a time for hugs, handholding and togetherness. This will be illustrated beautifully from 5:30 to 6 p.m., as merrymakers of all ages create a human parade during the processional along the Downtown Mall.
Every year, more than 100 volunteers make certain things move as smoothly as possible on the day of the event. But the largely unsung champions of FNV are people like Cassis and Van de Castle,who work tirelessly during the year to make this one-day event a reality.
“It’s a lot of work for me, so I don’t get to enjoy much of the evening,” Cassis said with a laugh. “We do it so the people of the community have the opportunity to enjoy and experience something like this.
“We have a lot of volunteers help out during the actual event. But there were only 11 of us this year who worked for months leading up to the event to make it happen.
“We’re constantly looking for people to get involved, because it’s a big job. I think a lot of people think this is something put on by the city.
“The city certainly helps with money and other things, but it’s basically put on by a small group of people. My enjoyment comes from the feeling I get from helping the community.”
First Night Virginia starts at 3 p.m. Monday and will go until midnight. A full schedule of events is available at www.firstnightva.org.
First Night Virginia
3 p.m. Monday
On and around Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall
Processional on the Downtown Mall at 5:30 p.m.;
midnight ball drop with Groove Train at Main Street Arena
$18, $5 ages 6 to 15, $42 family four-pack