First Night Raleigh
When: Sat., Dec. 31, 2 p.m.-2 a.m. 2011
Downtown Raleigh—Like fine wine and some major actors, First Night Raleigh has become better with age. This year's theme is based on traditional French New Year's celebrations, and the pièce de résistance will be the 90-foot La Grande Roue de Raleigh. This giant Ferris wheel will be installed on the corner of Fayetteville and Hargett streets and will run 2–11:30 p.m.; a ride is included with a First Night admission button. You can buy buttons for $9 in advance; children 5 and under get in free. Events begin at 2 p.m. and conclude with the dropping of the giant acorn in City Plaza at midnight. Visit firstnightraleigh.com for the schedule of events, including a children's celebration from 2–6 p.m.
Here are some First Night highlights:
- Pimps of Joytime: The Brooklyn funky soul band grooves in the New Year from 10:30–midnight on the City Plaza stage.
- People's Procession: Beginning at 6 p.m., a traditional parade follows Rhea (a giant puppet created by Paperhand Puppet Intervention) and N.C. State's Pipes and Drums corps through the streets of Raleigh to the acorn.
- Ballroom Dancing: The USA Ballroom Dancers give free instruction on Latin, ballroom and country and western dancing from 7:30–11 p.m. at First Baptist Church.
- Onyx Boys Club: The swinging band merges old and new music with rag, jazz, soul and samba influences in sets at 5:45 and 8 p.m. on the City Plaza stage.
- The Triplets of Belleville: A fantastic French animated film following the misadventures of a bicyclist, his mother and a trio of aging grandes dames of the stage, showing at 9:15 p.m. at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences. —Christina Cass