Bostonians will be able to ring in the New Year in a whole new way on Thursday night and Friday. The trend-setting First Night celebrations will be very different from those in previous years.
Overall the programming has been drastically curtailed due to harsh budget realities. But on the flip side, First Night is actually expanding to include First Day festivities. Programming on Dec. 31 runs from noon to 1 a.m., and on Jan. 1 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The biggest positive headline is that all events are “unbuttoned,” or totally free. The most lamentable news is that the Family Festival at the Hynes, floor after floor of kid-oriented activities and shows, is, alas, no longer financially feasible.
But despair not, revelers! The merry-making is all family friendly and well worth taking the T to Copley to mingle with the good-humored throngs.
The majority of the First Night/ First Day’s activities will be held in Copley Square. Partner programming will occur during similar hours at the Prudential Center, Boston Public Library, the Old South Church, and Copley Place. Additional activities can be found on Boston Common, along the Freedom Trail, and in the Seaport District.
The first of the four tent pole events is the 6 p.m. funky People’s Procession, bristling with giant puppets and dragon dancers to welcome in the Year of the Monkey.
Also starting right at 6 is the Skating Spectacular on Frog Pond. Presented by The Skating Club of Boston, this world-class figure skating ice show will feature national and international figure skating competitors, synchronized skating, and Theatre On Ice teams.
After the 7 p.m. Family Fireworks by the Mugar Foundation, many folks with kids will head home. But for the heartier partiers at midnight there will be bigger fireworks over Boston’s Inner Harbor while in Copley Square a new pyrotechnics show will welcome in 2016 as the Boston-based band Ripe leads the countdown.
Much of the entertainment is presented by Berklee College of Music, the Greater Boston Chinese Cultural Association, and Puppet Showplace. Daytime sessions include plenty of hands-on arts activities.
Founded 40 years ago, First Night Boston spun off similar New Year’s Eve arts festivals in other cities, but the organization has been sputtering for the last few years. Fortunately, this year event planning doyenne Dusty Rhodes galloped to the rescue. In a generous pro bono gift to the city, she assigned eight of her Conventures staffers to pull together a coherent two- day event while she hit up corporate wallets for donations.
Talking to the Reporter, David Balfour of Conventures previewed some of the selfie-worthy ice sculptures to look for in the Copley Square area: a countdown clock with Father Time, a polar bear in a winter scene, Bruins and Canadiens Logos, an ice version of the Paul Revere statue in the North End, and, from sponsors Jet Blue, a plane wing, and Boston Harbor Cruises, a reproduction of its “Codzilla” thrill-ride boat.
More details at firstnightboston.org. Remember all events are free and the MBTA will not collect fares after 8 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.