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First Night Pittsburgh: So many things to do before midnight

Candy Williams
| Thursday, December 27, 2018 12:03 a.m

The challenge with celebrating New Year’s Eve in Pittsburgh this year won’t be about finding fun things to do, but rather finding enough time to do them all before the clock strikes midnight.

Revelers will have more than 100 events and activities to choose from during Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s Silver Jubilee 25th Anniversary Celebration of Highmark First Night Pittsburgh, according to Sarah Aziz, First Night director.

Spotlight on local artists

Aziz says there will be nonstop activities – both old favorites and new additions – inside at galleries, theaters and unique spaces, and outside at performance stages along the 14-block Cultural District from 6 p.m. to midnight on Dec. 31.

“This event has grown significantly in its 25 years,” Aziz says. “The whole Cultural District has changed so much, from empty storefronts to, thankfully, a district that is so active. First Night Pittsburgh has managed to stay true to the Cultural Trust’s mission of primarily featuring local artists and national talent as well.

“There really is something for everybody,” she says.

One of the highlights of the night will be the “Black and Gold Turns Silver” New Year’s Eve Parade, celebrating Highmark First Night Pittsburgh’s 25th anniversary and the 20th year of creative leadership from puppet-maker Cheryl Capezzuti of Brighton Heights.

Puppets on parade

Besides the mix of marching groups and musicians, the parade will feature Capezzuti’s traditional art cars and signature giant puppets from Studio Capezzuti. It will start at 8 p.m. at David L. Lawrence Convention Center and wind through the Cultural District, ending at 8:30 after turning right on Stanwix Street toward the Allegheny River.

Capezzuti says she hopes the weather cooperates this year, unlike 2017 when “they had a parade party indoors instead because it was so cold.”

5 New Events

Here are some not-to-be-missed events during the city-wide celebration:

Steel City Let’s GLOW Crazy
Dance Parties

Emerald Owl Productions Inc. will host three Steel City Let’s GLOW Crazy Dance Parties with different themes at EQT Plaza throughout the night. The lineup includes: 6:45-7:30 p.m., a Kids Glow Party, with emphasis on songs and games for children; 8:45-9:30 p.m., Fun For All Ages, featuring current music and some interactive games, and 10-10:45 p.m., Fun for All Ages, focusing on Blast to the Past, classics from multiple decades and some interactive games.

Attendees can wear their best glow-in-the-dark attire, including clothing and glow paint, and get ready to participate in interactive activities and dance in 2019 to music from all decades to today.

Williams SING-OFF Competition winner

The winner of this year’s Williams SING-OFF Competition will showcase the vocal talent that was voted top in the region at
6 p.m. on the Dollar Bank Stage.

The contest annually awards a local student in grades 6-12 with the voice of the year award, an opportunity to perform live at First Night Pittsburgh, a $500 cash prize and a $1,000 donation to the music department of the student’s school.

Special guest celebrity judge this year is Sewickley native Peter Matthew Smith, who will be performing as King George in the national tour of “Hamilton” when it comes to Pittsburgh Jan. 1-27.

Magician/comedian Lee Terbosic

Local magician and comedian Lee Terbosic will be working his magic in three shows at 6:45, 8:30 and 10:15 p.m. in the O’Reilly Theater.

His last “big event” in Pittsburgh was in 2016, when he recreated an upside-down straight-jacket escape performed by Harry Houdini 100 years earlier at the same downtown location. His new network television series, “Houdini’s Last Secrets,” will premiere on Jan. 6 on the Discovery Science Channel.

Zuzu African Acrobats

These acrobats from Mombassa, Kenya, were finalists on “America’s Got Talent” in 2011 and have performed in more than 25 countries over the past decade, including Australia, China, Korea, Germany, France, Italy and Spain.

Their show blends circus acrobatics with popular dance moves set to African music. They will give two performances, at 7 and 9 p.m. at Pittsburgh CAPA School.

Noel Quintana and The Latin Crew

First Night Jazz Club presented by BNY Mellon will feature Noel Quintana, bandleader of Noel Quintana and The Latin Crew. He has been involved with Latin music for more than 30 years and is the host of a Pittsburgh-based radio show, “Salsa Con Ritmo,” focusing on Salsa, Afro-Cuban and Latin Jazz music.

Noel Quintana and The Latin Crew will perform at 7:30, 8:45 and 10 p.m. in Trust Arts Education Center, Peirce Studio, Lower Level.

5 Must-See Events

Here are ideas for some of the “can’t miss” events taking place throughout the evening:

Dollar Bank Children’s Fireworks

Kids don’t have to wait until midnight to see fireworks at First Night Pittsburgh. The evening will kick off with the Dollar Bank Children’s Fireworks display at 6 p.m. on the Dollar Bank Stage.

New Year’s Eve Comedy Showcase

The Pittsburgh Comedy Festival will present Norlex Belma and Mia Jackson in a special showcase hosted by Pittsburgh’s Day Bracey at 7, 9 and 10:30 p.m. in the Byham Theater.

Belma is a New York City-based comic who got his start in Pittsburgh after attending Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Music. Jackson, from Georgia, was a semi-finalist on Season 9 of NBC’s “Last Comic Standing.” She has appeared on “Inside Amy Schumer” and in the movie “Mother’s Day.”

Durand Jones and The Indications

A young quintet from Bloomington, Ind., will perform their blend of classic soul music with their DIY-punk ethos at 10:45 p.m. on the Highmark Stage. The group released its debut album, “Durand Jones and The Indications,” earlier this year.

Penny Arcade Kids Comedy Show

Penny Arcade is an improv comedy show designed for kids 5-12 years old, but still fun for the entire family.

Kids show their creativity by writing funny lines of dialogue, drawing locations and creating character names, then the Penny Players bring their ideas to life on stage with 45-minute improv comedy shows at 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. at Arcade Comedy Theater.

Future of Pittsburgh Grand Finale

The Future of Pittsburgh Grand Finale fireworks display is the annual culmination of Highmark First Night Pittsburgh and represents the bright future of the city.

The event starting at 11:58 p.m. features a Countdown to Midnight on the Highmark Stage, the raising of the Future of Pittsburgh ball atop Penn Avenue Place, a Zambelli Fireworks display and continued music from Durand Jones and The Indications.

Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.


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Puppet-maker Cheryl Capezzuti’s oversized puppet creations have been part of the Highmark First Night Pittsburgh parade on Dec. 31 for two decades.Puppet maker Cheryl Capezzuti’s oversized puppet creations have been part of the Highmark First Night Pittsburgh parade on Dec. 31 for two decades.
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Holiday lights and fireworks are part of the fun at Highmark First Night Pittsburgh on Dec. 31.Holiday lights and fireworks are part of the fun at Highmark First Night Pittsburgh on Dec. 31.
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ZuZu African Acrobats from Kenya will give two performances at the Highmark First Night Pittsburgh celebration on Dec. 31.Zuzu African Acrobats from Kenya will give two performances at the Highmark First Night Pittsburgh celebration on Dec. 31.
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Magician and comedian Lee Terbosic will perform magic at Highmark First Night Pittsburgh on Dec. 31.Magician and comedian Lee Terbosic will perform magic at Highmark First Night Pittsburgh on Dec. 31.
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One of the outdoor stages offering live performances at the Highmark First Night Pittsburgh celebration on Dec. 31.One of the outdoor stages offering live performances at the Highmark First Night Pittsburgh celebration on Dec. 31.
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