First Night Tacoma is the perfect way to celebrate the end of the world. If the world survives the evening, First Night may just end it anyway with its lineup of fire performances.
And if the world does end? "No better reason to hang out with friends, listen to great music and set things on fire," says co-event director Lance Kagey.
First Night Tacoma - an annual, all-ages, family-friendly, alcohol-free New Year's Eve celebration - follows the Chinese lunar calendar, and this year is the year of the dragon. In this spirit there will be two large dragons making an appearance at the festival - a 35-foot creation by Metro Parks Tacoma, and a 14-foot fire-breathing metal beast.
"We're really stepping up the fire aspect to mitigate the cold," says Kagey. "Last year, we had Zen fire gardens, which are very cool basins filled with black sand. You can draw in them with sticks and fire traces your drawing. We'll have those again. We'll have some fires to gather around for warmth. We have a big fire spectacular at the end of the night, and lots of fire performers throughout the evening."
No matter the weather, First Night has activities indoors and out.
During the day, the museums downtown will offer free admission to anyone with a First Night button until 5 p.m. Most importantly, First Night buttons - available at many businesses in the Stadium and Theater Districts - will get you into all of the stages and events for the evening.
At 6:30 p.m. First Night Tacoma officially kicks off in the Theater District with a parade.
"We call it the world's shortest parade because it goes from Sanford and Sons over to the Theater on the Square area," says Kagey, "but it's a blast because it jazzes everyone up. There's lots of loud music and the dragons will be there."
Throughout the evening, attendees can enjoy music on 12 stages. Two of the 12 stages are outdoors, and there will be a demonstration area utilized by Fab 5 at the Graffiti Garages on Broadway. Bands and performers will include regional acts such as Roman Holiday, Rumbeggae and Vamola.
"The whole festival is and probably always will be a local showcase as opposed to bringing in national acts," says Kagey. "We're very much about being a community."
Throughout the evening, the 35-foot Metro Parks dragon will make the rounds. These dragon "tours" will leave about every 20 minutes from 1117 Broadway.
Other random activities include everything from getting a drawing done of your dragon self, to games at the SOTA Club.
New this year are food vendors, so the estimated 10,000 to 20,000 attendees don't have to wait in long lines at the busy restaurants downtown.
At midnight, there is a big community hurrah in the Theatre on the Square. Last year, the event hosted a record-breaking attempt at the largest bunny hop ever.
"This year we aren't doing a world record attempt, but we'll probably have something like that," says Kagey.
And, of course, the 14-foot fire breather will be there, lighting stuff on fire. Kagey did not specify what exactly will be getting incinerated, but chances are at best downtown Tacoma won't burn down. At worst, at least everyone in attendance will be nice and toasty warm.
First Night Tacoma
Saturday, Dec. 31
Downtown Tacoma Theater District
6:30 p.m. to midnight
Buttons $10 before Saturday, Dec. 31, $14 day of
Kids 10 and younger free
Available at businesses throughout Tacoma and online at brownpapertickets.com