First Night celebrates a community's local culture, often featuring music, dance, comedy, art,
fireworks, and ice sculptures. It was began to promote a non-alcoholic event each
New Year's Eve that the entire family could enjoy together safely. 1998 the Capitol Theater downtown
SLC attracted over 3,000 people !
1999, the Millennium show was held
at the Salt Palace. 3 shows with over 5,000 people. Thousands turned away.
2000 back at the Capital Theater
2 shows over 4,000 people!
Gateway Grand Hall of the Union Pacific
4,000+ people. Thousands turned away due to lack of room.
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Night Fun Chases the Chill
BY TOM WHARTON
THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE
January 1, 2001
The temperatures may have hovered in the low 20s. Fog
might have shrouded much of the Wasatch Front. And it was Sunday, when
religious-minded Utah is typically quiet.
None of those factors stopped thousands from bringing
in the new year by making a resolution to have fun at annual First Night
celebrations in Salt Lake City and Ogden.
In what ranks with the day after Thanksgiving and the
night before the Days of '47 parade as the liveliest evening of the year
downtown, crowds of families and teen-agers filled the streets for a seven-hour
celebration bringing in 2001.
"We come every year and bring friends," said
Kendra Spillman of Salt Lake City who wore two pairs of socks and overalls
to stay warm. "We always start out with ice skating."
Spillman's daughters Brianna, 8, and Alyssa, 5, clutched
a dog and butterfly puppet they had constructed as part of the Children's
Museum of Utah and Starry Eyed Puppets presentation.
At the Salt Palace, young Tasha Heilweil of Salt Lake
City tried the aerial bungee skiing as part of the Salt Lake Olympic Organizing
Committee's short-sport program.
Kids nearby frolicked with huge blow-up dinosaurs,
watched "mad science" or learned about paleontology, anthropology
"It's been good," said Ann Heilweil, Tasha's
mom. "But last year was better."
This year's Salt Lake City First Night celebration
seemed more subdued than last year's millennium bash, which drew 85,000
Organizers will not know until later in the week how
many attended this year's event but it was obvious crowds were down, probably
in the neighborhood of 30,000.
"It's kind of slow," said sausage sandwich
vendor Scott Van Campen. "We were hoping for some more people."
Bob Farrington, executive director of First Night 2001,
said things were going as expected with new attractions such as the World
Beat ethnic musical and art show at the Salt Palace and the Old Navy Interactive
Zone proving popular. He said anything compared to last year will likely
"It has been the indoor venues that have been
busier than things outdoors," he said. "For a winter night,
to have this many people outside enjoying themselves, it shows people
do respond when something is fun and maybe extraordinary of the things
that happen on a typical weekend."
Some TRAX cars were jammed to the point of standing
room only. Farrington said about 30 percent of the people coming downtown
for special events use the train.
Those who came certainly did not lack for things to
try, see or enjoy.
The World's Fastest Hypnotist, who nearly twice filled the Capitol
Theatre (seating just under 2,000 people) with 2 shows, to
those who braved the cold to dance to groups such as Punjab, Harry Lee
and the Back Alley Blues Band, Zion Tribe and Salsa Brava, the variety
of events kept most happy.
Children especially seemed to enjoy the outdoors Interactive
Zone, where video technology allowed them to be part of the action of
a Utah Jazz game, fly through downtown Salt Lake City like Superman or
play a role in the movie "South Pacific." Kids giggled as they
saw themselves projected on the wall of the Dinwoody Building doing extraordinary
"This is a tradition with the family," said
Shannon Powell of Salt Lake City about attending First Night. "We
spend the night downtown and do things with the kids."
Pete Helfrich, community development director for the
sponsoring Downtown Alliance, called the crowd well managed and well behaved.
Near the entrance to the Salt Palace, Carolyn Burdick
passed out pieces of metal rebar, encouraging celebrants to bang the wild
combination of sculpture and drum that her son, Wayne, constructed. It
was a good way to stay warm.
The "drum" was built of scrap metal, including
car bumpers, grills, hubcaps and tire rims.
"There's a half-ton of metal," said Wayne
Burdick between beats on his drum as part of the Samba Gringa troupe.
"We worked all day on it."
Dozens of First Night celebrants stopped at the Resolution
Station at the Gallivan Center.
The Ferris wheel-like sculpture, put together by students
from the University of Utah art department, allowed folks to write a resolution
on a piece of paper, put it on the wheel and watch it burn and go up in
That might not be a bad place for resolutions to go.
"It depends on how you want to interpret it,"
said Meridith Pingree, one of the artists, who added that most people
were secretive about their resolutions.
But, as the clock moved toward midnight, the biggest
resolution of most folks seemed to be to end 2000 and bring in 2001 by
enjoying First Night.