It seems like only a short time ago that Raleigh was a quiet city that let the old year pass and the new one arrive without much fuss. Then, in 1990, came the stroke of inspiration that created the very first First Night celebration, a downtown extravaganza with multiple performance venues and food and all that, which was a ringing (or maybe that should be a ringing in) success directed by Ann Smith. The crowd estimate in 1991 was 15,000 to 20,000, pretty good for an alcohol-free event.
Tonight, the framework remains much the same (A $9 advance, $10 night-of button is your ticket) but the entertainment options have spread all over downtown, including indoor comedy and music. An afternoon celebration focuses on things for kids, and adults will flood the place later for the dropping of the acorn (newcomers, this is the City of Oaks) and fireworks and the like. From that debut, crowds have steadily grown, with 80,000 in attendance last year.
Times Square its not. And thats just fine. First Night has very much the flavor of a hometown celebration, and a fun and civilized one at that. Cmon down. Watch for falling acorns.