There are so many reasons to go out on New Year’s Eve this year, and so many more reasons to stay home: one big reason, to be exact, and it begins with the letter O. But if you’re vaccinated and boostered and ready to mask up in your most festive KN95, you have a good chance of staying safe as you wish a not-so-fond farewell (as in, please-god-let-it-be-over) to 2021.
The best bet? Choose a celebration that gives you options: indoors and outdoors, fun stuff for both kids and grown folks, and plenty of room to roam. In other words… First Night St. Petersburg!
This is the 29th year of First Night. It’s a celebration of the arts, so expect the unexpected throughout downtown St. Pete. But be sure to buy a button (beautifully designed by Cecilia Lueza): button sales support the artists, and 12 of the participating venues require a button for entry.
Buttons are for sale through Dec. 30 at a variety of locations, including Florida CraftArt in downtown St. Pete, Creative Pinellas in Largo, the St. Pete Visitors Center on 2nd Ave. S., The Annex on Beach Drive, both downtown St Pete Kahwas and more. You can buy a button the day of, too, but look at the price difference: Through December 30, adult buttons are $12 and children 5+ are $5, but on December 31, adult buttons go up to $20, and children 5+ go to $10.
Here’s my Top 10 guide, but know that there are tons more activities to choose from. Get a full schedule at firstnightstpete.com.
LISTEN TO THE MUSIC
There’s a slew of great performers on tap. At First United Methodist Church (212 3rd St. N.), enjoy the warm acoustic sounds of Kasondra Rose (6-6:45 p.m.), the intriguingly named fusion collective Jengle Slap (7-7:45, 8-9), and the sophisticated sambas of Daniela Soledade and the Nate Najar Quartet (9:15-10:45). At Christ United Methodist (467 1st Ave. N.) artists from St. Pete Opera and the Florida and Sarasota orchestras play starting at 7. R&B and funk rule the North Straub Park Finale Stage from 8-midnight with Jay Camaro followed by the Bus Stop Band. And over at the Elevated Lawn on the St. Pete Pier, violinist Cal Morris serenades us into 2022 from 7:30-11:30.
DANCE TO THE RHYTHM
Captain Barney of the Urban Gypsies leads a drum circle in South Straub Park from 7-9. Dundu Dole Urban African Ballet kicks things off with panache at the North Straub Park Finale Stage from 6:47-7:45. And you can dance to your own kind of music at the Silent Disco (North Straub Park Pavilion, 8:30-11:30).
MAKE A WISH
Make a wish for the world in words or pictures as part of Kim DiVito’s St. Peace Flag Project; create your own Wishing Stars with wire artist Brandy Stark; or Type Away 2021 with the help of traveling poet Gio’s Typos (7-11, South Straub Interactive Art Park).
SAVE THE BUTTERFLIES
For her Seeds of Hope project, artist Aleisha Prather invites you on a glowing journey into the fragile world of the Monarch butterfly. She has created a larger-than-life installation of the iconic butterfly floating above a giant milkweed flower fabricated from 90% repurposed materials. Each participant will receive the opportunity to “plant a seed” of hope, writing down a wish on handmade wildflower blooming paper to take home or plant in the designated area. The first 500 participants will receive native milkweed seeds to continue the conservation of this species. (Williams Park, 6-10:30)
EXPLORE DREAMSCAPES & LABYRINTHS
Look for the magical balloons in South Straub Interactive Art Park to find your way to Technicolor Dreamscape, an out-of-this-world projection map interactive exhibit created by artist Zulu Painter and Ryan Tuttle of FX Projections. In North Straub Park, get lost in the Labyrinth until you reach the fire sculpture by James Oleson (7-11).
GO TO THE CABARET
That’s the Cannonball Cabaret, who describe themselves as “Tampa Bay’s only vintage vaudeville variety show,” mixing Tim Burton and musical theater for an evening of “fishnets and laughter.” (Williams Park, 10-11)
RUN AWAY AND JOIN THE CIRQUE
Or at least run to Williams Park and join the families thrilling to the aerial acrobatics, fire dancing and more of Underground Cirque, “an engaging and inspiring display of danger, beauty and circus arts.” (Williams Park, 7 & 8:30).
PLAY ON THE PIER
The St. Pete Pier will be home to the First KIDS Celebration from 4-7. Activities for the young and young at heart include a Kids Fun Zone featuring scientific art from Great Explorations, hat and mask-making with Lynda Curtis, a Little Library Corner from Keep St. Pete Lit, and a Gratitude Garden. On the Elevated Lawn, wonder at the giant fog vortex during the Mad Science Show (4 & 4:45) and smile at the silly tricks of Tim the Magician (5:30 and 6:15). The fun times culminate at 7 with the Sea Creature Puppet Parade, a project of the Morean Center for Clay’s summer campers. Join the puppets as they proceed from the pier to…
STOMP THOSE BUBBLES!
Everyone’s favorite form of harmless destruction, it’s the great Bubblestomp! Masks encouraged, especially if you must stomp in proximity of other stompers. (North Straub Park Pavilion, 7:45)
The Kaboom! Fireworks Display starts at 8.
And I didn’t even mention the Surrealist Giant Puzzle or the Scavenger Hunt or the Illumination Station or…. There’s just so much that you’ll have to explore First Night St. Pete yourself!