Though he calls Smithfield home, John Michael enjoys First Night Williamsburg so much that he's helped plan the event for nearly 10 years.
"It's just a great event. It really is," said Michael, First Night's vice president of entertainment.
Believing in the mission and value of First Night, Michael and all others involved in the planning do so on a volunteer basis.
With food, fireworks and a full roster of entertainment from more than 30 performers across 11 local venues, First Night Williamsburg returns for a 24th year on Saturday, Dec. 31.
This year, the event is dedicated to First Night founder Jim McCord, who passed away in June. Twenty-four years later, the First Night mission endures.
"The mission is to promote a family-friendly, alcohol-free community celebration for New Year's Eve," said Susan Tisdale, the event's vice president of marketing.
Musicians, dancers, storytellers and performers will descend on the downtown area from 3 p.m. until the first moments of 2017.
"People can sample different genres and different styles of performance for $20 through that entire period," Tisdale said. "We think it's a great value for the community."
Entertainment falls under three categories, children, young adults and adults.
Children's entertainment runs from 3-7:30 p.m. at Matthew Whaley Elementary School, with performances from the likes of Power House Dance, Children's Theatre of Hampton Roads and Buffalo Bill, among others.
Teens can check out the Community Center from 7-11:10 p.m. with three bands new to First Night: Andrew Shield and the Big Deal, In Layman Terms and Lightfoot Revival, playing in that order.
For adults, the 28 performers encompass a mix: new and favorite acts, local and regional acts and, as always, genres.
Music starts at 3 p.m. in Kimball Theatre with BJ Griffin and the Galaxy Groove, continuing until the grand finale at the College of William and Mary's Zable Stadium. Jacob Vanko, Bobby BlackHat, Jae Sinnett Trio, Jackie Scott and the Housewreckers and Williamsburg Classic Swing Orchestra are just a sampling.
"We try to hire local acts as much as we can, because we want to give local performers an opportunity to perform another event," Michael said. "We also try to go outside of the area."
He said the lineup combines First Night favorites with 12 new acts, such as jazz vocalist L'Tanya Mari' and the locally based Cigar Box String Band. Interestingly, Michael also noted that, though there is variety, this year's lineup includes many jazz, blues and bluegrass options.
As always, fireworks welcome the new year. At 11:30 p.m. at Zable Stadium, Cigar Box String Band will preface the show with a few tunes. Then, fireworks will last 12-15 minutes, the show designed by Dominion Fireworks. A fireworks show for children occurs earlier in the evening at 7:15 p.m. by Matthew Whaley.
Tisdale advised: "Prioritize the act that you would like to see most and make sure that you're there well in advance of their showtime."
Seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis to the performances. But, not to worry, as many acts perform at multiple times, Tisdale said.
To see the full schedule, visit firstnightwilliamsburg.org/schedule.
An all-day event calls for all-day eats.
At the outdoor food court by the Sadler Center, options include the Two Drummers Offbeat Eats food truck, Jay's Grill on Wheels and B&G Concessions. Inside the Sadler Center, you'll find offerings from Ben and Jerry's and Southern Pancake and Waffle House.
Five Forks Cafe will serve up all-American options in the Campus Center's atrium, while Williamsburg Concessions and Catering will set up outside Phi Beta Kappa.
Parking and transportation
Parking is available on William and Mary's campus in the parking garage, as well as in lots labeled "Faculty and Staff" and "Students," according to the First Night website.
Other options include the parking deck on North Boundary Street by the Greater Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance, the deck on North Henry Street and the lots around Merchants Square. Limited parking can be found in the Community Building, Zable Stadium and Campus Center lots.
Two buses will run through the venues until 11:45 p.m.
Get your button
Admission is pretty simple: purchase of a First Night "button" allows access to the entire event.
Buttons for adults are $20, with $10 wristbands available for kids ages 3 to 13.
There are few purchasing options. One is to do so anytime from the First Night website, firstnightwilliamsburg.org/tickets. A $50 option that includes two adult buttons and two child wristbands is only available online. Online purchases can then be picked up anytime after 12:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Sadler Center's will-call window.
Another option is purchasing buttons or wristbands with cash or check from the following locations.
•Amory Music, 4434 John Tyler Highway.
•Baskin-Robbins, 416 Prince George St.
•Chesapeake Payment Systems, 5000 Foundation St. (accepts cards).
•Ford's Colony Community Services, 100 Manchester Drive.
•Williamsburg General Store, 1656 Richmond Road.
•Wythe Candy and Gourmet Shop, 414 W. Duke of Gloucester St.
•Wild Birds Unlimited, 4625 Casey Boulevard.
•Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center, 101 Visitor Center Drive.
Lastly, buttons are available the day of the event at the following locations and times: 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at Colonial Williamsburg's Visitor Center, 12:30-9:30 p.m. at the Sadler Center, 1-5 p.m. at Kimball Theatre, 1-9 p.m. at Williamsburg Regional Library, 2-6 p.m. at Matthew Whaley, 5:15-9:15 p.m. at Phi Beta Kappa Hall and 5:30-9:30 p.m. at William and Mary's Campus Center.
Bridges can be reached by phone at 757-345-2342.