First Night was first celebrated in Boston in 1976, an outgrowth of America’s Bicentennial celebration. The event provided one of America’s oldest cities with a new way of ushering in the New Year. First Night remained a Boston phenomenon until 1982, when First Night Virginia was founded in Charlottesville.
Today, First Night festivals are presented by a broad range of nonprofits and municipal agencies across the country each December 31st. First Night organizers share a commitment to promoting the performing and visual arts as catalysts for unifying their citizens on New Year’s Eve (and beyond) through imagination, creativity, and community participation. First Night organizers plan and produce festivals that reflect their particular constituents and celebrate their unique communities.
State College’s inaugural First Night kicked off on December 31, 1994, with the sponsorship of PNC Bank and the Bell Atlantic Yellow Pages, and the support of the Borough of State College and downtown churches. It featured some of the elements of today’s First Night State College: performances in downtown churches and public buildings; resolution sculptures, a giant puppet procession, ice sculptures, and ice skating. At the that event there were 36 one-block ice sculptures and 4 larger ice walls located on the 100 block of South Allen Street. It was a good day for ice, with lots of clouds and a high of 33 degrees. There was a small fireworks display on the HUB Lawn at midnight.
The world, and First Night State College have changed in the ensuing years. The Bell Atlantic Yellow Pages is a thing of the past–replaced by the Internet. Downtown State College looks different too–it’s constantly changing. First Night now has lots more ice sculptures than it did in 1994–over 90 one blocks most years. We have a 5K run too–a run that people do in costume!
One thing that hasn’t changed–First Night State College is still a great way to celebrate the end of the old year and the start of the new one!
First Night State College is a production of the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, Inc (CPFA). No use of First Night State College may be made in connection with the manufacture and/or sale of merchandise without the CPFA’s express written approval.