First Night Draws Locals Downtown for New Year’s Eve is your source for free news and information in Williamsburg, James City & York Counties.

First Night 2016First Night is celebrating its 23rd year with an evening of the best the Greater Williamsburg area has to offer in visual and performing arts.

The New Year’s Eve tradition is returning Thursday with a line-up of events across Williamsburg and William & Mary’s campus, culminating with a fireworks display at 11:30 p.m. to ring in 2016.

For $15, interested parties can purchase a button that gains them access to every stage and venue throughout the event. More than 35 acts are participating this year, including storytellers, bluegrass bands, jugglers, traditional Celtic musicians, blues artists and a myriad of children’s music performers.

Performance venues include the Community Building, William & Mary’s Trinkle Hall, Ewell Recital Hall, First Baptist Church, the Kimball Theatre, New Town United Methodist Church, Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall and the Williamsburg Regional Library.

For the first time, First Night will be starting the party early this year with performances at the Kimball Theatre and New Town United Methodist Church at 1 p.m.

“The two new afternoon shows, which have never been done before, were really created to accommodate people who can’t or don’t want to be out at night,” said Karen Peifer, a former First Night board member and current communications assistant for the event.

Early event-goers can buy their buttons on site at both the Kimball and New Town United Methodist and continue to enjoy all of the performances the event has to offer up to midnight or bow out early if late night festivities are not their thing.

The early performances will be followed by the annual KIDSHOW at Matthew Whaley Elementary School starting at 3 p.m. This family-oriented line-up of performances and activities is ideal for parents with little ones who want to take part in the fun of First Night but are unlikely to make it until midnight. The KIDSHOW even culminates with a miniature fireworks show at 7 p.m. so kids can enjoy this New Year’s Eve tradition for themselves.

The bulk of the programs for the evening begin at 6 p.m., and guests can find a complete line-up of the scheduled entertainers here.

Numerous food and non-alcoholic drink vendors will be scattered throughout the area serving up sub sandwiches, barbecue, Italian sausages, crab cakes, chicken tenders, sweet treats, soups, coffee and hot chocolate.

The fireworks display will be launched from William & Mary Hall, with free seating available in the stands at Zable Stadium. The best viewing can be found on the Richmond Road side of the stadium, and guests are encouraged to get to the stadium at least 30 minutes prior to to show, which begins at 11:30 p.m.

“I believe in this event because it supports local artists – all the acts are paid – and provides a friendly, non-alcoholic environment to celebrate in,” Peifer said. “There is just so much variety, and it’s a great time.”

Parking for First Night is available on William & Mary’s campus at the garage next to the campus police station on Ukrops Way and in the nearby lots. Downtown parking can be found at the garage behind the Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance Building on North Boundary Street and in the garage on North Henry Street.

Colonial Williamsburg buses will run their normal routes from the Visitor Center until 1:30 a.m. The Williamsburg buses will run until 10:30 p.m.

For information on where to purchase an admission button, click here.

A map of the area that the event spans can be found here.