First Night Springfield returns on December 31 with entertainment and activities

After a year-long hiatus from the traditional in-person festivities, First Night Springfield will return on December 31 with free and paid entertainment and activities for the whole family based primarily on the Hoogland Arts Center.

Due to concerns about COVID-19 and the lack of vaccines for the general population, the first night of last year was a free affair offered virtually and featuring artists from Springfield, California and Florida.

Now vaccines are widely available, but COVID-19 has not gone away, which is why most of the first night’s activity will be in Hoogland, according to Springfield Area Arts Council Executive Director Sheila Walk.

The Hoogland, 420 S. Sixth St., has established protocols to promote mask wearing and social distancing by visitors, she said.

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First Night, which is the Council’s main fundraising activity, will mark its 35th year. In the past, First Night has showcased local talent on a dozen or more stages at various locations downtown.

“Concerns about public health led the arts council’s board of trustees to reduce this year’s footprint,” Walk said. “It’s a way to protect artists and participants. “

The public will be encouraged to wear masks during indoor events.

“We will have masks and sanitizer for everyone who needs it and will have our guests keep a ballet jump apart whenever they can,” Walk said.

Although performers do not wear masks during their performances, they were encouraged to be fully immunized, she said.

“First Night Springfield is designed to be a celebration of our local arts community, and we missed it,” she said. “We missed the arts. We also missed being with other people to enjoy the arts. We want to be careful, but we also want to reappear to appreciate the arts as a community. “

First Night Springfield is a celebration of the area's arts community

First Night Springfield is one of the oldest New Years celebrations of its kind in the country, Walk said.

It’s called “first night,” she said, because “in old calendars the new year began at dusk” on the last day of the year.

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Here is a list of planned activities, with more detailed information to be posted soon on the Arts Council website at night.

* -4: 00 p.m. at the Hoogland, free artistic activities will be offered by Creative Reuse Marketplace, Dana-Thomas House, Garvey-Tubman Center, Illinois State Museum, Lincoln Memorial Gardens, Lowe’s, Springfield Art Association and the YMCA. Springfield Dance will also be performing, and no pre-registration is required.

* 5:30 pm-7:30pm at Boone’s, 301 W. Edwards St.: Free jazz music with the Stone Cold Band. Boone’s offers food and drinks for sale. There is no entrance fee.

* 6 pm at First Presbyterian Church, 321 S. Seventh St.: performance of a play written locally by Robert Davis to mark “Watch Night”.

Watch Night is an African-American tradition reminiscent of the vigil that led to January 1, 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation declared that blacks in southern states were freed from slavery. Participation is free, but donations will be accepted.

* 7:00 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church: Organist and music historian Paula Romanaux will perform works by modern African-American composers. Participation is free, but donations will be accepted.

* 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. at the Hoogland Center for the Arts: A variety of local groups will perform on four different floors of the center. A detailed schedule will be posted at and in printed form to guests at the door.

Tickets cost $ 5 for youth and $ 20 for adults. Tickets can be purchased at the door or in advance on the Hoogland website,

Acts will include Capital City Improv, International Brotherhood of Magicians Ring 239, Spencer Films, Springfield International Folk Dancers and Springfield Municipal Opera.

The Sangamon Watercolor Society will exhibit the work of its members in the gallery.

* 11:15 p.m. fireworks. The fireworks display, presented by the Arts Council in partnership with the City of Springfield, will begin after the activities inside the Hoogland have ended. People are invited to gather on Fourth Street and Capitol Avenue for the show, which Walk says will end in time for people to reach other destinations before midnight.

Contact Dean Olsen: [email protected]; (217) 836-1068;

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