What Is First Night?

Ring in the New Year with thousands of your friends and neighbors at First Night Harrisonburg.  Activities and performances will begin at 5:00 p.m. JMU John C Wells Planetarium and 6:00 downtown and continue until midnight in downtown Harrisonburg.  To celebrate, we will highlight the arts and bring the community together by transforming retail stores, churches, and downtown businesses into performance venues that showcase local and regional talents.  Past performances have included a range of live music, from bluegrass to rock n’ roll for the adults, and clowns, face painters and magicians just for the kids.

First Night buttons are available for only $8 in advance and $10 on the day of the event. Children under the age of 5 are admitted free of charge.  The button serves as your admission pass that grants you access to every performance and every venue throughout the night.  That’s more than 25 performances in 14 venues!

All of the venues are alcohol-free, and are within easy walking distance.  And, at the stroke of midnight, we celebrate the dawning of a new year with a ball drop on Court Square.

In its 26-year history, First Night has developed a reputation as a safe, exciting, family-friendly alternative to traditional New Year’s celebrations.  We anticipate more than 4,000 people joining together in downtown as they say goodbye to 2017 and celebrate the beginnings of a new year.  So, make plans now to celebrate at First Night Harrisonburg!

Our History

First Night began in Boston in 1976 with a small local group of artists who were inspired to create a new kind of New Year’s revelry that would bring neighboring communities together in celebration, while providing an alternative way of ushering in the New Year.

Decades later, cities across the United States and beyond have created their own traditions that are founded on the same principles of arts, community and celebration.

Twenty six years ago, Harrisonburg created its own volunteer-driven new year’s celebration that was supported entirely by button sales and the generosity of the community: businesses, foundations and individuals who provided financial and in-kind support.

In 2010, for the first time in 18 years, there was no First Night celebration in downtown Harrisonburg on New Year’s Eve.  The lack of volunteer support and funding was the impetus needed to give new life to this event.  In 2011, First Night was back and more alive than ever!  And, the interest and support for this event is continuing to flourish, as you will see at this year’s celebration.

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