On the first night, Springfield welcomes the new year with a celebration of the arts

First Night Springfield will celebrate its 36th anniversary — and the 20th anniversary of the Hoogland Center for the Arts — with a Sunday afternoon and evening of family-friendly arts and entertainment that says goodbye to 2023 and welcomes 2024.

“For the last 20 years, (the Hoogland has) been a venue for us, along with a few others,” said Sheila Walk, executive director of the Springfield Area Arts Council, which has produced First Night since the beginning. “This is their 20th anniversary and we thought it would be fitting to celebrate with them. The center opened with First Night on December 31, 2003.

So, along with much of the family-friendly celebration of the arts that will be held at Hoogland, the arts center is joining the arts council as a co-producer of the event, Walk said, noting that it will also be a fundraising funds for both organizations.

The pair have a full range of activities and performances planned on Sunday, starting with free events from 1pm to 2.45pm in 10 spaces across the Hoogland.

The Garvey Tubman Cultural Arts and Research Center will oversee children’s craft sessions from 1 to 1:45 p.m. and 2 to 2:45 p.m., while the Sangamon Watercolor Society will have an exhibit and demonstrations, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum will have craft sessions , Lincoln Ring of Magicians will offer magic shows beginning at 1:00 and 2:00 p.m., and Springfield Dance Company will perform performances beginning at 1:00 and 2:00 p.m.

The Sangamon Valley Chord Company will play at 1:00 pm in the meeting room, followed by the Zwie Dumm Clowns at 2:00 pm

The Hope Autism Clinic will also have a quiet area in the Hoogland Social Room, and refreshments and a chance to meet some superheroes will be available in the lobby.

Tickets for the evening lineup, which runs from 6 to 9:45 p.m. at the Hoogland, are $20 for adults and $5 for youth.

“It’s going to be a very full afternoon and evening,” Walk said. “The Muni and Theater Center will have the main stage throughout the evening. We are happy about that.”

The Springfield Municipal Opera and Springfield Theater Center will alternate performances at 6, 7, 8 and 9:00 pm at the LRS Theater on Hoogland.

Other performers during the evening include organist Mark Gifford and the Capital Big Band at the Ryder Theatre; Springfield International Folk Dancers, Central Illinois Irish Dancers and Springfield Poets and Writers in Theater 2; and David Kane and storyteller-musician Mike Anderson in the boardroom,

Crafts and coloring, face painting, a selfie station, refreshments and a watercolor art exhibit will also be available.

Those looking to fill time between afternoon freebies and evening events can take advantage of the free ice skating at Union Square Park. The skates are available through the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Walk said.

Evening activities will end at 9:45pm to allow people to get to Hoogland at 420 S. Sixth St. to the area around Fourth Street and Capitol Avenue, where the city will have fireworks starting at 10 p.m.

“The best viewing is at Fourth Street and Capitol Avenue,” Walk said. “That’s where people usually gather. Some also go to Hoogland’s garage.

Fireworks at 10 p.m. wrap up First Night activities, giving people a chance to get home — or to another gathering — before the clock strikes midnight, Walk said.

The fact that the first night of 2024 will end before midnight, signaling the end of 2023, is intentional.

“In ancient calendars, the first day of the year began at dusk,” Walk said. “So it’s the first night” of the new year, even though the first day is yet to come.

First Night Springfield will run from 1-2:45pm and 6-9:45pm on Sunday at the Hoogland Center for the Arts in Springfield. Admission to the afternoon events is free. Admission to the evening events is $20 for adults and $5 for youth.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum will offer free ice skating in Union Square Park from 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday in conjunction with First Night, and the city’s free fireworks show will be at 10 p.m. on Fourth Sunday Street and Capitol Avenue. Parking in the garage next to Hoogland will be free.

For more information, go online to springfieldartsco.org or hcfta.org/tickets.

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