First Night Celebration Starts Today at 3

December 31st, 2009 by Kim Lenz

Ring in the New Year at Williamsburg’s 17th annual First Night celebration, featuring 11 new performers along with traditional favorites.

First Night is a family-friendly, non-alcoholic event that features indoor fun. There are singers, dancers, musicians and clowns – a little bit of everything means that there’s something that everyone will enjoy. The 41 stages in 24 of historic Williamsburg’s lovely buildings will feature performances beginning at 3 p.m. and ending when the New Year begins.


This year’s theme is Smile Beyond Today. “We just want to make people happy, and give them a chance to take a step out of today,” says Karen Peifer, vice president of communications and marketing. It’s a tough economy, and this year’s event is a chance for folks to just let their worries melt away, she says.

New to the event this year is Audrey Auld, a country and folk singer who has lived in California and Nashville for the past five years and recorded several albums. “She’s a sassy, brassy Aussie,” says Peifer. “We’re excited about Audrey.”


Also new this year are magician William the Conjurer, who has shared his magic in acts across the country; jazz musicians The Lindsay Family, a talented mom and dad along with their three kids who love to make music together; and acoustic folk musician Skip Friel.

This year’s map is color-coded and includes a grid, which Peifer says is based on an idea organizers tried last year. “People can plan everything by zone,” she says. “First Night seems really spread out; this will make things easier.”

Along with the new performers, First Night Williamsburg will have many returning favorites. Volunteer Chair Rita Grove says the Bagels and Fraylox Klezmer Band is one of the performances she likes best. “I like acts that make me laugh,” she says, and Bagels and Fraylox do the trick every year. Peifer says the band is high on her list, too.

Grove says almost 400 volunteers are set to help out for this year’s event, which is pretty typical since the event is completely run by volunteers every year. There’s a family of five traveling from Ohio who asked to volunteer together this year, says Grove, “and we were just tickled about it.” The family, three generations worth, will be helping out in the Sadler Center.

Every year two sets of out-of-town volunteers travel to Williamsburg, one from Missouri and one from California, and they always stop by the First Night office to volunteer at the last minute. These are visitors Grove says she really looks forward to seeing.

Lots of delicious foods will be available all around each zone, including local favorite Pierce’s Pit Barbeque, hamburgers and subs, baked goods, seafood and snack food. Also, an important part of the evening – coffee and hot cocoa to keep you warm!

About 8,000 people attended last year’s event; the weather looks a little bit iffy this year, which might affect the turnout. Grove says that the temperature looks like it will be mild, but there could be some rain. “People should remember that all the performances are indoors, and there are bus routes that can take them where they want to go!”

Fireworks will be at 7:30 p.m. at Matthew Whaley and midnight at Zable Stadium. For a complete list of events, times, a map and bus schedules, visit the First Night Web site or pick up the information when you purchase your ticket. Tickets are $15, and children under 6 are free.

Where to buy tickets:

Tickets can be purchased today from 1 to 9 p.m. (unless designated) at:

William & Mary Campus Center

William & Mary Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall

William & Mary Sadler Center

Williamsburg Regional Library Arts Center

Colonial Williamsburg Visitors Center  9 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Kimball Theatre noon – 5 p.m.

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