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Welcome, 2008

For 12 months, the First Night committee has booked entertainers, hired food vendors and lined up venues for its 14th annual downtown New Year's Eve celebration. Now, with the party just eight days away, it's all coming down to two four-letter wo...

For 12 months, the First Night committee has booked entertainers, hired food vendors and lined up venues for its 14th annual downtown New Year's Eve celebration. Now, with the party just eight days away, it's all coming down to two four-letter words: snow and cold.

The weather certainly will be a big part of the success of the evening, planners said.

"Not too warm, not too cold 25 to 30 degrees would be perfect," First Night Executive Director Sheryl Holter Vogel said, describing her wish for New Year's Eve.

"I'm just hoping for people to come out and have a good time," Holter Vogel said. "It's a great event. There's something for everyone to enjoy, to have a safe and happy new year and to come out and celebrate."

First Night Greater Grand Forks is an arts, cultural and entertainment festival that's been held every year since 1994. Over the years, it has waxed and waned in attendance and number of performers. This year, there will be 14 performers at five venues, plus a teen venue and more. Planners are expecting 3,000 to 3,500 people.


Beginning at 5:30 p.m., First Night revelers can enjoy music, dance, magic, comedy, children's shows and more, have their photos taken at the Alerus Financial Ice Garden, eat, check out ArtWise and Dakota Science events and at midnight welcome 2008 with fireworks over the Red River of the North. For a complete schedule, maps and more information, check out the First Night "Discover the Fun" booklet inserted in today's Herald. Copies also are available at businesses and locations around the community.

Admission to the indoor events is by button, which costs $8 and $10 in advance (available at Valley Dairy and Hugo's) or $10 and $12 the day of the event at any of the venues. Children 5 and younger are free.

Entertainers will perform at Central High School gymnasium and auditorium, Empire Arts Center and the YMCA upper and lower gyms. Teen events will be at 4Fourteen Youth Center. The Corporate Center will host a food court, ArtWise activities, Dakota Science displays and more.

If you've got a button, you're welcome to ride a shuttle bus from venue to venue.

Let the sculpting begin

One of the most artful parts of First Night is the Alerus Financial Ice Garden at the corner of Fifth Street and DeMers Avenue. Paul and Deneena Hughes, artists from the Twin Cities area, are expected to arrive Friday in Grand Forks to begin carving the 25 blocks of ice, each weighing 300 pounds.

The sculpture will include a snowflake wall and an ice bobsled where people can sit to have their photos taken. From 6 to 8 p.m., Alerus Financial will take photos of visitors to the site and distribute free photos in acrylic frames as souvenirs.

There also will be First Night's custom skyway mural by local artist Susan Nord, who also created murals for Porpoura Coffee House downtown.


The entertainers

When it comes to entertainment, First Night planners like to strike a balance between performers that usually aren't seen in the area and local favorites, said planning committee member Mark Landa, director of Empire Arts Center.

"We try to give people a chance to try new things, whether that be new forms of dance or music genres," Landa said. "We want to showcase local talent, too, because we have some great local talent."

This year's entertainers include Sherwin Linton, whose country music show includes a tribute to Johnny Cash, and the popular Grand Forks father-and-daughters trio The Diers (formerly Prairie Rose).

There will be Kenny Miller's Super Star Super Show, with tributes to Elvis, Marty Robbins and Roy Orbison; Viva Capoeira, a Brazilian martial arts dance troupe; Seth Mulder and the Goose River Boys, a bluegrass band based out of Cummings, N.D.; and The Minnesota Dance ensemble, founded by Grand Forks native Laura Dvorak-Berry.

Audiences can laugh along with comedian Scott Novotny; cowboy performer T. Texas Terry; Phil Baker's Traveling Fun Kids Show; hypnotist Terry Davolt; and juggling, magic and more by TC Hatter.

They can sing along with musician Bill Cagley; hear instrumental duo Greenwood Tree perform traditional instrumental music of the British Isles and more; and be entertained by Jelly Belly the Clown.

There has been one change in the main lineup since the First Night book was printed. Grand Forks magician John Horpedahl has been added to fill in for Freshwater Pearls puppetry.


There's also a teen entertainment lineup. The 4Fourteen Youth Center will feature concessions, student art displays and entertainment geared for younger revelers: the band Rudolph Lives; UND student and musician Isaac Halvorson; Red River High School senior and musician Alex Guy; Aberdeen, S.D., band Static Line; acoustic musician Jamie Mulligan; singer Deborah Halstad; and the punk rock band Button Gwinnet (formerly known as Tones of Emotion).

At the food court, vendors will sell pulled pork sandwiches, tacos in a bag, coffee, hot cider, water and other refreshments from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. All First Night venues and activities are smoke- and alcohol-free.

Reach Tobin at (701) 780-1134; (800) 477-6572, ext. 134; or ptobin@gfherald.com .

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