FUN FACTS ABOUT FIRST NIGHT
First Night is the oldest and largest New Year’s Eve celebration of the arts in North America. It takes place on Dec. 31, 2012. This is the 37th edition. It was founded in 1976 by a group of artists and community activists seeking to create an alternative, arts-oriented event for New Year’s Eve.
It is called “First Night” and not “Last Night” because it is about looking forward, to the New Year.
It has been replicated by over 200 cities and towns, and this year there are 70 First Nights in the United States. This year’s event features over 1000 artists in 200 performances and exhibitions at 35 indoor and outdoor venues around Boston. Expected attendance is one million celebratory people.
The FedEx Family Festival starts at 1 p.m. at the Hynes, and we close with the LogMeIn Midnight Fireworks over Boston Harbor.
• First Night is a private non-profit corporation, supported by public and private donations, corporate sponsorship and First Night button sales. More than 65% of the annual budget funds artistic programming and production. First Night artists are paid for their work.
• The City of Boston is a major partner and supporter, providing many services. First Night could not happen without the generosity of the Mayor and the City.
• The annual budget for First Night 2013 is $900,000. Button sales typically cover about 57% of the expenses for First Night which include the festival and First Night Neighborhood Network, a year round community outreach and arts education program for over 1,500 kids and their families in Boston’s neighborhoods.
• If the budget is $900,000 and 1 million people attend, that means First Night’s cost per person served is just $.90. Quite a value!
• According to a recent economic index, First Night Boston generates $25 million dollars for Boston businesses in the fourth quarter. This figure does not include the admission fee (button revenue), and because the study is a few years old, doesn’t take into account the recently enacted Boston hotel and meals tax.
• First Night is grateful for the support of its major sponsors, who include The City of Boston, Thomas M. Menino, Mayor; WBZ-TV; The Massachusetts Convention Center Authority; FedEx, Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau; LogMeIn; Karmaloop/Future Boston Foundation; Sheraton Hotels and Resorts; Boston Properties and The Shops at the Prudential Center; MBTA and New Venture Media and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. First Night also hopes for more corporate and individual support in the New Year.
The Panorama Grand Procession
The Panorama Grand Procession is the heart of First Night Boston, and it has been since the beginning, 37 years ago. This year’s theme is “The Nature of Boston.” The procession will contain four sections, differentiated by colors, and led by a different piece from the Back Alley Puppet Theatre and Puppeteers Cooperative, whose founders have participated in all 36 First Nights in Boston. The Procession is usually led by Mayor Menino and First Night Executive Director Geri Guardino, and begins at 5:30 p.m. in front of the Hynes Convention Center. It proceeds down Boylston St., turning left on Charles, and ending at Charles and Beacon Sts. There are approximately 1000 people in 45 different groups who will march in the Procession. Many are participants in community programs that run workshops in schools and community centers to prepare for this signature First Night feature.
The Ice Sculptures
First Night will have three official ice sculptures –two in Copley Square and one on Prudential Plaza. Each weighs 30 – 45 tons. One standard block of ice is 22”x 44” and weighs 300 pounds. There are 2000 pounds in a ton. On Dec. 31, sculptures are illuminated with a brilliant display of theatrical colors.
• ICE SCULPTURE: Donald Chapelle/Brilliant Ice, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, Boylston Plaza at The Shops at Prudential
A sequel to fan favorite Here Fishy Fishy. In previous years, brother and sister Margie and Norman spent their summers diving in the coral reefs of Southern Florida. Now almost fully gown and on spring break they are diving in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, unaware of the dangers that lurk below.
• ICE SCULPTURE: Eric Fontecchio/Brookline Ice, Jack and The Beanstalk, Copley Square, all day and night
The classic fairy tale captured in ice!
• ICE SCULPTURE: Eric Fontecchio/Brookline Ice, Unity 2013, Copley Square
After a contentious election year, Fontecchio captures in ice some of the things that unite us.
People get mad because the ice sculptures get knocked down around January 2, but this is because the DPW deems them unsafe, and we don’t have the budget to provide security much beyond the event. As one staffer told an irate patron who came on January 3 to see ice sculptures one year, “Would you call up the fourth of July people on July 7 and give them a hard time because you missed the fireworks?”
LogMeIn Midnight Fireworks over Boston Harbor
Good viewing spots include the Waterfront from South Boston to Charlestown, as well as parts of East Boston.
The Zambellis are among the oldest and largest fireworks manufacturers in the US. Over 100 years ago, Antonio Zambelli moved from Italy with closely guarded fireworks formulas, handwritten in a small black book. Son George, who died in 2003, grew the family business, which employs three of his children, two sons-in-law, 50 year-round employees and hundreds of seasonal workers in Colorado, Maryland, New England, California and Florida. The Zambellis produced more than 1,800 shows on July 4th, including some of the most elaborate displays in the nation: Denver, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Mount Rushmore, St. Louis and Baltimore. They will light up the skies on New Years in Boston, New York, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Marina Del Ray, to name a few.
Midnight Fireworks FAQ’s
Q: Why do you see the explosion before hearing it?
A: Sound travels at 742 miles per hour, but light travels 670,616,625.6 miles per hour.
Q: How are the colors made?
A: Master pyrotechnicians build shells with bright burning metallic salts, which may be intensified by adding chlorine compounds. The salts are tightly packed into balls called stars, and placed inside the shell. The colors are: green / Barium Nitrate; blue / Cooper Salts and Chlorine; red / Strontium Nitrate; amber & orange / Charcoal & Carbon; white / Magnesium & Aluminum; and yellow / Sodium Salts.
Q: How are the booms, bangs, hums and whistles made?
A: Salutes, made with titanium, produce the concussion booms at the end of a show. Smaller salutes made of flash powder or a titanium mixture produce a flash and bang. Whistles are tubes that fly across the sky making shrieks and whistles. Hammers spin and scream.
Q: How big are the shells and how high so they go?
A: Three inches to twelve inches diameter, or the size of a tennis ball to a basketball. They weigh from six ounces to twelve pounds and fly as high as 100 to 1,500 feet.
Q: What is the most popular shell design?
A: Chrysanthemums & Peonies are popular. Weeping Willows have extra charcoal and burn an amber color, with a long lasting descent. Strobes are clusters of flashing silvery lights that drift slowly to the ground.
(I can’t guarantee some of these facts, but believe them to be true.)
• The artist who has performed in the most First Nights are Sara Peattie of the Back Alley Puppet Theatre. She’s been with us all 37 years.
• Ken Kovach of the Skyriders holds the Guinness World Record for consecutive jumping through a hula hoop in mid air. I am not sure what the technical term for that is.
• First Night Board member Ed Tiffany has his own group that dresses up and marches in the Grand Procession. They’re called “Geometric Progression.”
• First Night’s Neighborhood Network serves about 1500 children in the Boston area, and 18 of the FNNN groups will be performing at this year’s event.
The Staff and Administration
• Three full time staffers work year-round planning First Night.
• First Night artists are paid.
• The call to artists is sent out to hundreds of artists, agents and community groups in February. About 350 artists and groups proposed projects. Projects are reviewed by staff, and a volunteer arts advisory panel, chosen for their expertise in a given genre. About 100 projects are accepted, and the staff tries to have all of the programming secured by the time the button is unveiled in November.
• Seven part timers are added to the office staff from the fall through the event.
• The week of the event, the production staff numbers about 120.
• Over 300 volunteers answer phones, act as ushers, paint faces, become parade marshals, and generally help make sure things go smoothly.
• Staffers also don’t really have time to go home in the final week. Most move into the Sheraton Boston (the official First Night hotel) sometime between December 23 and 30, and stay through the event. The production staff usually stays through about January 3, because it takes about that long to take down the show.
• First Night staff, crew and volunteers need to eat and stay hydrated, and food and drink has been donated this year by California Pizza Kitchen, Boloco, Pizzeria Regina, Pret a Manger, Shaw’s, Cheesecake Factory, Food Should Taste Good, Larabar, Cascadian Farm, Honest Tea, Sabra, Chobani Greek Yogurt