It’s almost time to ring in the New Year, and the folks at First Night Flathead have a festive list of reasons to kick off 2011 in Kalispell this year.
This marks the 12th First Night celebration in the Flathead, during which 14 businesses will host 30 bands for an alcohol-free, family-centered event to celebrate the New Year.
And while this year will follow much of the same blueprint as last, First Night president and organizer Patrice Manget said there will be some surprises tacked on to an already full schedule.
“You do as much as you can in one year and you just try to keep growing it the next,” Manget said.
This year’s First Night celebration is dedicated to Marc Moriva, front man for The Fanatics, who passed away in February.
The party begins at 2 p.m. with children’s activities at the Kalispell Center Mall and Red Lion Hotel. It includes complimentary face painting by Fancy Face Design in the hotel’s convention center lobby.
Six Shooters Vintage Photography will also have a booth set up in the lobby until 5 p.m., Manget said, complete with Glacier National Park backdrops in celebration of the park’s centennial and vintage costumes available for poses.
“We’re celebrating the end of the centennial year,” Manget said. “We kicked it off last year.”
Kids will also have the opportunity to make hemp bracelets in the JCPenney court, with the materials donated by Creative Arts and Beads of Kalispell. And under the Red Lion Convention Center entrance canopy, Glacier Miniatures will offer free pony rides from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
At 3 p.m., Hooping in the New Year begins its hour-long hula-hoop session, teaching the basics of hooping as well as a few tricks. There will be extra hoops available for participants.
Finally, from 4 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., kids and adults are invited to join in the First Night Commencement Parade, which will include Glacier National Park Fund’s mascot Billy Bowman and the Cat in the Hat from Montana PBS.
Flathead High School drum major Hannah Wilson will conduct the parade and bagpipers from the Montana Highlanders will provide music for the march.
“We just make a huge, raucous First Night noise,” Manget said.
Festivities continue at 7 p.m., when venues throughout Kalispell begin hosting music sets for nearly 30 bands and performers. Each set will last 45 minutes with a 15-minute break in between.
Some of the highlights this year include an avenue exclusively for swing dancing at the Linderman gym on Third Avenue East, hosted by Swing Dance Kalispell. And The Museum at Central School will transform into Sorry Charlie’s Piano Bar.
Shorty’s Barbershop will present a night dedicated to the young music scene in the valley, Manget said, with performers ranging from folk to reggae to rock.
One of the benefits of an alcohol-free night is that anyone can go to any of the shows without worrying about being turned away for being too young, Manget said. That includes many of the bands’ family members, she added.
Some of the artists this year include BrassWerks, Smokehouse Blues Band, Lee Zimmerman, Throne of Malediction, The Stringlers and Yellow Bird. For a complete list of performers, visit the First Night website at www.firstnightflathead.org.
“There’s such a range and wealth of local talent and we’re just delighted,” Manget said. “We’re very excited for our program this year.”
Eventually, the night culminates at the Masonic Temple Hall on Main Street. There, the Kenny James Miller Band will headline the stage and there will be opportunities for photographs and face painting.
There will also be plenty of food and New Year’s Eve party favors available, Manget said.
Kalispell Mayor Tammi Fisher will preside over the midnight countdown, which begins at 11:45 p.m.
First Night participants can access all venues with an admissions button, which costs $12 in advance or $15 at the door. Children under 6 years old are free when accompanied by an adult with a button.
If the cost sounds a little high, First Night volunteer coordinator Miriam Emerson suggests signing up for a volunteer slot to greet people during the evening. Volunteers earn two admission buttons and a special gift, but there’s also a considerable social benefit.
“You will see so many people that you know. You start feeling that you’re just a part of a big family,” Emerson said. “You’ll see your neighbors and your relatives walking around talking to each other. It’s just a very good feeling for the people in Kalispell who go to it.”
For volunteer opportunities, contact Emerson at 406-314-4516.
Admission buttons are available throughout the valley; for a list of all locations, visit www.firstnightflathead.org. Tickets for the Split the Pot drawing are available at Western Outdoor in Kalispell; the winner need not be present to win.
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