Times Square moves a little west as central Ohio prepares to usher in 2009 with First Night Columbus on Dec. 31, filling High Street near the Statehouse with thousands of revelers on New Years Eve.
The festivities begin at 5 p.m. throughout the city at dozens of venues and conclude at midnight with a year-ending extravaganza. The event features a pair of new activities and 150 performers from solo artists to bands and ensembles to stilt walkers, dancers, and jugglers.
"We have a couple of new events this year," said Lindsey Weiker, public relations manager. "In Vets Memorial, along with the Creation Station, there is the Ohio Department of Natural Resources ‘Recycling Rhythm’ for kids from 5-10:30 p.m. where they can take recyclable materials and create trash instruments to take home or use in the People’s Parade.
"There’s also the ‘First Night of Film’ held in partnership with the Columbus International Film and Video Festival. From 5-11 p.m., at COSI in the traveling exhibit gallery on level one, we’ll be screening a continuous loop of eight cartoons from around the world.
"The biggest thing this year is the movement of the Grand Finale Stage from the Arena District to the High Street area in front of the Statehouse. High Street will be briefly shut down for the celebration and there will be cannon salutes on the Statehouse lawn. We’re trying to create a Times Square environment and are encouraging everyone to come downtown to celebrate together."
•Performers spanning the entertainment spectrum from Broadway to hand drumming, belly dancing, karaoke, and face painting will be featured throughout the halls and rooms of Vets Memorial. The First Night Teen Idol competition joins with the First Night Teen Dance in the Wayne Brehm Room. Talented teenagers from local high schools battle it out from 8-9:15 p.m. to be named Teen Idol and then dance the night away with games, contests, raffles, and contests with DJ Trent Iguchi starting at 9:30 p.m.
•On the City Hall Plaza, dance amid the bubbles with DJ Sonya and Bubbles by Tree, carve your name in a block of ice and add it to a sculpture, or display your game-playing expertise in an icy version of corn hole.
•In the One Education Building, a high-energy trio comprised of guitarist/composer Neil Jacobs, violinist Ric Smith, and bassist Steven Fox transforms Gypsy, jazz, and world folk music into a new American music style. Ladies of Longford, known for their adaptations of traditional Irish fold songs, perform contemporary Celtic pieces inside One Columbus at 8, 9, and 10 p.m. Other music venues include the Rhodes Tower, Trinity Church, COSI, and Key Bank.
•The annual Bob Evans Pancake and Syrup Party will be held from 6-10:30 p.m. at the Rhodes State Office Tower. The $6 meal includes pancakes and a choice of hot coffee or cold beverage with free refills.
•As a prelude to the Moments to Midnight…Countdown on the Square celebration from 11:30 p.m. to 12:15 a.m.-featuring a show with city officials, live entertainment, and the 2008 Teen Idol Champion-the traditional People’s Parade works its way down Broad Street at 11 p.m. Led by Mayor Mike Coleman, Commissioner Paula Brooks, and the Saints Drum Line, First Night Columbus participants don wild hats and carry noisemakers as they move along the street to the grand finale staging area.
First Night admission buttons are an all-access pass to activities and exhibits throughout downtown and at COSI from 5-10 p.m. They are on sale at Giant Eagle stores, Vets Memorial, and COSI.
Advance sale buttons are $10 or $12 the day of the event. Children age five and under are admitted free. Buttons can also be purchased at www.firstnightcolumbus.com.
First Night Columbus will be held regardless of the weather and free shuttle service will be provided. Many parking lots and garages throughout the area are offering discounted parking on Dec. 31 after 3 p.m. when you show your First Night Columbus button. Parking meters on major downtown streets will be free starting at 6 p.m.
Volunteers are needed to help staff events and various shifts/opportunities for individuals, families, or groups are available. Volunteers receive a free admission button, free t-shirt, Spaghetti Warehouse coupon, and prizes from local businesses. For information on First Night Columbus, visit www.firstnightcolumbus.com.