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First Night Pittsburgh turns 25 |

First Night Pittsburgh turns 25

The Cultural District will come alive with music, dance, theater, comedy, magic and kids’ activities as Highmark First Night Pittsburgh celebrates its 25th anniversary on New Year’s Eve.

“For a quarter of a century, Highmark First Night Pittsburgh has brought acclaimed local and national artists together to ring in the New Year,” director of Highmark First Night Pittsburgh for the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust Sarah Aziz said during a news conference Monday. “Every year, we strive to bring culturally diverse and exciting activities, pieces of art and performances together in the Cultural District. Here’s to the next 25 years.”

No Pittsburgh event is complete without Zambelli fireworks displays. There will be two that night, along with the signature New Year’s Eve Parade and its famed giant puppets.

Marching on

This event marks the 20th anniversary for puppet-maker, artist and educator Cheryl Capezzuti of Brighton Heights. Puppets created at her studio and during community workshops throughout the holiday season will be, as always, a centerpiece for the parade. She said there will be over 300 puppetsto help ring in the new year.

“I see the parade as a people-powered work of art that wouldn’t be complete without art made by the community,” Capezzuti said. “I am proud to participate year after year. The parade will represent things we love about Pittsburgh and what connects us as a community.”

Sing off

The event includes the participation of Pittsburgh native and star of the national tour of “Hamilton,” Peter Matthew Smith. Before stepping onstage at the Benedum Center as King George on Jan. 1, he will serve as a Williams SING-OFF Competition guest judge.

The winner of the competition, which is accepting auditions from singers in grades 6-12 through Dec. 7, will have the opportunity to perform live at Highmark First Night Pittsburgh. The winner will also earn a $500 cash prize and a $1,000 donation to his or her school’s music department.

One of the competitors is Elias Khouri of Polish Hill, who is a senior at Nazareth Prep in Bellevue. He has been playing guitar for the past four years and focuses on the genres of funk, soul and rock and roll from the 1970s.

“This is such an amazing opportunity to see people perform you may never have seen before,” said Khouri, who has been on stage at many local theaters. “I am looking forward to meeting other musicians and listening to their work. I love to perform because I feed off the crowd.”

Other happenings

During the six-hour celebration, you will be sure to encounter fan-favorites like magician Lee Terbosic, Arcade Comedy Theater and the Staycee Pearl Dance Project.

The “Question Monster” will be part of two shows at 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. at Arcade Comedy Theater. This is a new addition to other Arcade Comedy shows in the past on First Night.

“These first two shows are family-friendly shows,” said performer Stacey Babyak. “Attendees can ask the ‘Question Monster’ any question they want.”

Visitors can also discover Emerald Owl Productions’ “Steel City Let’s Glow Party” at EQT Plaza, The Zuzu African Acrobats of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” on the Pittsburgh CAPA School stage, and the First Night Jazz Club presented by BNY Mellon in the Trust Arts Education Center.

Some events require a reservation while others such as Fire and Ice Plaza, Fifth Avenue place face painting and caricatures, visual art galleries and the Family Tent sponsored by Highmark & Allegheny Health Network.

Durand Jones and the Indications will take the stage to begin the countdown to midnight with dynamic, modern soul music.

There will be more than 100 events and activities that evening.

Admission buttons are $10 each, children 5 and younger are free. There is a VIP ticket for $40. Some indoor performances also require free reserved seating.

Details: 412-456-6666 or

JoAnne Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 724-853-5062 or [email protected] or via Twitter @Jharrop_Trib.

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop | Tribune-Review
The Arcade Comedy Theater will present 'Question Monster' a performance where members of the audience can ask it questions at Highmark First Night Pittsburgh which is celebratin its 25th anniversary on Dec. 31.
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop | Tribune-Review
Highmark First Night Pittsburgh will celebrate its 25th anniversary on Dec. 31 with its annual parade featuring Penguin puppets designed by artist Cheryl Capezzuti of Brightton Heights (middle).
Pittsburgh Cultural Trust
Highmark First Night Pittsburgh will celebrate its 25th anniversary with two Zambelli Fireworks shows on Dec. 31.
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop | Tribune-Review
Elias Khouri of Polish Hill is a senior at Nazareth Prep in Bellevue and will be one of the performers in the Williams Sing-Off Competition at Highmark First Night Pittsburgh which is celebrating its 25th anniversary on Dec. 31.
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