The First Night tradition began in Boston in 1976 and has since spread throughout the country. In New Hampshire, Wolfeboro in the Lakes Region and Portsmouth on the Seacoast are the state’s two official First Night celebrations. First Night Portsmouth is organized by Pro Portsmouth, a local nonprofit group.
First Night includes activities for both children and adults. Events start around 1PM with ice sculpting in Market Square. Indoor programs for younger participants begin at 4PM with puppet shows, magicians, storytelling, and face painting in several downtown venues. At 5PM, the Pontine Theatre will present “Cap’n Eli’s Best Ear,” a puppet performance based on a 19th century story.
Musicians will be in various locations throughout the area. The New Connie Bean Center will feature a “Battle of the Bands” from 8 to 10:30PM. Local singers will be featured at the Middle Street Baptist Hall starting at 8:15PM. T. J. Wheeler & Company will be at North Church from 8:15PM. At South Church there will be a chili cook-off and gospel and folk music. The Randy Armstrong Trio at Temple Israel will feature world fusion jazz.
The Seacoast Repertory Theater will host Poor Howard and Bullfrog, a blues band, from 5 to 7PM, followed by psychic/illusionist Roderick Russell at 8PM. The NH Theater Company is offering “Singing in the New Year: A Comic Cabaret” at the West End Studio Theatre.
Outdoor activities will be centered around Market Square, with a street dance on Pleasant Street beginning at 5PM, fireworks at South Mill Pond at 7:30PM, and of course, the Countdown to Midnight in the Square.
The First Night Portsmouth’s website has full details about the events and locations. You will need a First Night Portsmouth 2014 Button to gain entry to the indoor activities; the buttons may be purchased online by clicking here, or at the Portsmouth Hannaford’s, the Flower Kiosk, G. Williker’s, and People’s United Bank branches in the NH Seacoast area and nearby ME locations.
Most downtown streets will be open to traffic; but Pleasant Street from State Street to the Square, Church Street (next to the North Church) and Parrot Avenue (from Richards to Junkins) will be closed. The parking garage at Hanover Street will offer reduced rate parking starting at 4PM. There will be a free shuttle for all First Nighters, which will transport celebrants between the various event locations.
First Night Portsmouth will be an afternoon and evening of fun-filled activities for all ages. Don’t miss it!