The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Dec 21, 2012

The other way to celebrate New Year's Eve

Posted by rdurbin

A lot of people either have private parties or go to one on New Year's Eve. Either that or they hit the bars and gorge on the revelry of it all until the magic moment comes that starts the new year. All that is cool.

But the City of Akron, through the Downtown Akron Partnership, a Knight Arts grantee, has come up with a lively — and alcohol free — alternative that provides the perfect vehicle to celebrate for people of all ages — namely, a full evening filled with arts and entertainment called First Night Akron.

First Night Akron 2013 button. Photo from

This 17-year old event takes place at a variety of mostly indoor venues in the downtown area — including the Akron Art Museum, Akron Civic Theatre, Akron-Summit County Public Library, Greystone Hall, the John S. Knight Center, Lock 3, METRO Transit Center, National Inventors Hall of Fame and The University of Akron's Polsky Building. Local trolleys and shuttles are available regularly through the evening to get revelers to the various places on time to see the performers and the artists.

The list of entertainers is extensive. For a complete list, go to the First Night Akron site.

It seems like all the arts get represented, which is a really nice thing so that not only those who like dance can see it, but those who rarely get have the opportunity to do so. In fact, the event gives attendees to see groups and individuals they may never have seen.

In the area of film and filmaking, Akron Film + Pixel will be presenting a recurring 30 minute loop of several highly enjoyable short films at the Akron Art Museum. At the same venue virtuoso acoustic guitarist and harp guitarist Brian Henke will be performing music from all seven of his solo CDs, including his latest "Seven Magic Spells."

At the Akron Civic Theatre, larger assemblies of performers have been booked, among them Jersey — a Bruce Springsteen Tribute Band which is said to bring the power, energy and passion of the music of the Boss himself and his E Street Band.

At the Akron-Summit County Public Library auditorium, Mame Daiko, Cleveland JACL's Japanese Taiko Ensemble, will perform traditional and contemporary songs that combine choreography and Japanese style drumming. The library also has been venues with singers and instrumentalists.

Mame Daiko. Photo from Mame Daiko. Photo from

In the John S. Knight Center are a host of activities, including the Howard Street Blues Band, which is touted as bringing St. Louis blues legend Sonny Robertson to perform high energy blues and R&B. Robertson has performed with artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Janice Joplin, and BB King.

Summit Artspace will host Hal Walker, who was voted "Best Musician" in Scene Magazine in 2010 and 2011. At Zion Lutheran Church, where there will mostly be religious organizations performing, attendees can take in the L.I.O.N Players who tell biblical stories through dance and inspirational topics through theater.

Hal Walker, musician. Photo from Hal Walker, musician. Photo from

 There's pretty much something for everyone at First Night Akron.

First Night Akron will be held on Monday, December 31 from 6 p.m. to midnight at various venues in downtown Akron; 330-374-7690; Admission is $10 (children under 10 admitted free).

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