First Night ushers in new year

Leader Staff, arts@ptleader.com
Posted 12/27/16

Jefferson County Historical Society’s 10th annual First Night celebration offers something for everyone. There are short films, performances of plays and kids’ games. There is quilting, call …

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First Night ushers in new year

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Jefferson County Historical Society’s 10th annual First Night celebration offers something for everyone. There are short films, performances of plays and kids’ games. There is quilting, call dancing and a history hunt. To cap it off, there is to be live music, a dance party and, as is tradition, the illuminated anchor raising and fireworks display to welcome in the new year.

All activities take place in and around Port Townsend’s historic City Hall between 6 and 9 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 31.

First Night is a celebration of art, culture and heritage that originated in Boston in 1976 as an alcohol-free, alternative way to celebrate New Year’s Eve, said Bill Tennent, executive director.

The tradition soon spread across the country, from small towns to large cities. A decade ago, Tennent proposed that Port Townsend start its own celebration.

“I moved here from a city that had a really big First Night, and I was surprised that there wasn’t one in a town that considers itself to be an arts one,” Tennent said.

The historical society board thought it would be a good idea to take on, and looks forward to it every year.

“It’s a really a wonderful thing,” Tennent said. “It gives people an alternative, and it ends early enough in the evening that you can go out and party if you want.”

The anchor raised at the end is special to Port Townsend.

“We created our own tradition,” Tennent said of the bamboo anchor made by local sculptor Thaddeus Jurczynski.

“In most places they drop something down; isn’t it more positive to raise something up?”

The historical society decided to come up with something that would represent the history and community of the area. “What would represent Port Townsend better than an anchor?” Tennent asked.

The raising of the illuminated anchor is followed by an explosion of fireworks provided by David Chuljian, DDS, launched from Jefferson County Memorial Athletic Field.

Admission is by donation (suggested $5 per person, or $10 per family). Proceeds benefit historical society programs. Admission passes are available at the Jefferson Museum of Art & History in City Hall, 540 Water St.

Tennent encourages people to get their passes in advance to avoid the rush when the event starts.

The celebration is organized by the Jefferson County Historical Society and made possible by partnering organizations, according to Tennent. “We really depend on the various partners,” said Tennent, who sent a big thank-you to all the people involved.

Participating partners are Jefferson County Parks and Recreation, the City of Port Townsend, Port Townsend Police Department, Key City Public Theatre, Port Townsend Film Festival, Elevated Ice Cream Co., the Boiler Room, InterAct, Jefferson Community School, and artists, musicians and volunteers.

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