NH's lone remaining First Night celebration takes over Seacoast on New Year's Eve

NH Weekend Editor
December 27. 2017 3:01PM
First Night Portsmouth attendees can use their admission buttons to get $1 off admission to the Labrie Family Skate at Puddle Dock Pond on the Strawbery Banke Museum grounds between 4 and 9 p.m. Sunday. The rink has been a popular feature during Vintage Christmas celebrations in Portsmouth in December. Shown here, Erik Nylund warms up on the rink before performing in costume for guests during one of Strawbery Banke Museum's signature Candlelight Strolls earlier this month. (Courtesy)

Robert Squier, a Portsmouth illustrator and graphic designer who went to Exeter High School and studied at Maine College of Art, is this year’s winning entry in the logo contest for First Night Portsmouth.

And then there was one ... the Granite State’s only remaining First Night celebration will take over the Seacoast on New Year’s Eve Sunday night.

Boston launched First Night 40 years ago, and soon the concept of a family-friendly New Year’s Eve celebration expanded to include communities not only throughout the country but around the world. New Hampshire joined in, bringing cultural and artistic highlights to all corners of the Granite State, from Wolfeboro to Keene and Concord to Portsmouth.

But only Portsmouth continues the family-oriented event under the First Night name in New Hampshire. Festivities will run from 4 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. at historic buildings, churches and civic centers in and around Market Square.

Organized as an alcohol-free New Year’s Eve celebration, First Night Portsmouth features music, dance, art, fireworks and children’s performances.

ProPortsmouth usually sells about 3,000 First Night admission buttons, Barbara Massar, the operation’s executive director, told NH Weekend.

But free outdoor events, such as ice sculpting in Market Square and the 7:30 p.m. fireworks over the South Mill Pond, combined with restaurant specials and venue entertainment downtown, means the crowd in Portsmouth swells anywhere from 10,000 to 15,000, she added.

This year’s winning entry in the logo contest for the annual event was created by Robert Squier, a Portsmouth illustrator and graphic designer. The image, which is being used on First Night buttons and merchandising, depicts the landmark North Church, beneath two bursts of yellow fireworks and a border of elements that reflect the theater, arts and music events on the lineup (a guitar and saxophone, theater masks and paintbrushes.) 

Squier creates illustrations for the children’s publishing market, working for clients such as Highlights magazine, Child’s World, Capstone (Picture Window Books), Grosset and Dunlap, as well as the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire, located in Dover. Second place in the logo competition went to Sarah Fenerty and third place went to Ilysse Sirmaian.

In addition, two students, Addie Sargent and Micaela Klanchesser, were recognized for their entries.

“Each year, we work with Portsmouth High School graphic design students,” said Massar. “This duo’s work really caught our eye, and will be utilized as a future branding image for First Night.”

Cost for children under 12 is $3. For adults, admission buttons purchased in advance through Saturday are $20 per adult or $35 for an adult two-pack. On the day of the event, admission goes to $25 for an adult. 

Massar said ProPortsmouth was looking to raise $40,000 to cover the cost of First Night, including fireworks, ice sculptures and performances. 

To buy a First Night admission button, visit www.proportsmouth.org

Setting the festive mood for the indoor/outdoor event throughout the downtown, a street dance will take place from 5 p.m. to midnight on Pleasant Street at Market Square. The New Hampshire Astronomical Society will give passersby a glimpse of the stars. Fireworks will go off from South Mill Pond at 7:30 p.m

The entertainment lineup will feature Abracadabra! Magic by Phil Smith; puppeteer Lindsay Aucella; storyteller Peter Sheriden; blues-rock by T.J. Wheeler and Company; children’s performers Sammie Haynes and Amy Conley; Portsmouth Symphony Players; Rock My Soul gospel; Jeff Warner and Bruce McIntyre; Great Bay Sailor; The Cormac McCarthy Band; world fusion by Randy Armstrong and Genevieve Aichele; and Elvis and the J.C. Underhill Band.

Work on the ice sculptures will start at about 1 p.m. at the North Church, and a self-guided tour of the 1.5-mile Little Harbor Loop Trail runs from noon to 3 p.m. from 375 Little Harbor Road.

EntertainmentHoliday or vacationPortsmouth

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