After a year unlike any other, 2017 draws to an end Sunday. Although First Night's cancellation earlier this year created a New Year's void within the community, a myriad of other events are vying for the attention of the community, spanning all ages and interests.
Blues musician Bobby “BlackHat” Walters performed during several First Night functions over the years and, like many others, he was disappointed when the event was canceled during the summer after 24 years amid funding and labor concerns.
“We always had a huge crowd. I was looking forward to it again this year,” he said. “I didn’t want to leave this huge gap.”
Walters said he received numerous inquiries about what he might do instead. He opted to organize a show at the Kimball Theatre, calling it a “New Year’s Eve Blues Spectacular” and envisioning an event in line with the family friendly nature of First Night.
“On New Year’s, people are looking for something to do,” Walters said. “Not everybody wants to go out and get drunk and act a fool.”
To fill out the lineup of performers, he enlisted the help of fellow blues artists Ruth Wyand, the Tom Euler Band and In Layman Terms — all of whom are also competitors traveling to Memphis in January for the 2018 International Blues Challenge.
“It gives the audience very high quality musicians and acts to see,” Walters said.
He emphasized that although blues is often associated with melancholic melodies and themes, the evening’s music will be fun and celebratory.
“Blues is very exhilarating music. It covers every emotion,” he said. “It’s gonna be a good night. I think that people will get a good feel for just how much talent we have in the 757-804 area.”
The bluesman believes Williamsburg has become a hub for music in the area. The same case could be made for the local brewery scene, and Prince George Street’s Amber Ox restaurant and brewery is also diving into the New Year’s celebration with help from Alewerks, Billsburg Brewery and The Virginia Beer Company.
Amber Ox owner Andrew Voss said he intends for the inaugural PG-500 Block Party to be a fun, upbeat and energetic event.
“It’s throwing a party,” he said. “We want to put together an event that really brought the community together and ended up being a cool spot to be.”
West Point-based three-piece band JNM will perform a variety of music throughout the evening.
“It’s a cool southern rock, bluegrass kind of feel,” Voss said. “They’ve got a good vibe.”
That feeling extends to the local brewers’ various beer stations, which will line Prince George Street alongside cocktails and wines from the Hound’s Tale. A southern style barbecue station will serve up smoked meats, biscuits and other cuisine.
Voss said it’s geared toward adults, but the younger crowd is welcome — although certain celebratory endeavors will be off limits. Safety and responsibility are also a top priority.
Voss hopes the block party atmosphere will offer the community something unique and memorable as 2018 dawns.
“It should be a good time,” he said.
For those interested in a more luxurious affair, the DoubleTree by Hilton Williamsburg is planning a New Year’s evening of its own at its location near Kingsmill. The 21-and-up party features a DJ, live music, stand-up comedy, casino games and plenty to eat and drink. It expands upon a smaller affair held last year.
All ticket packages include entertainment, food, two drink tickets and champagne at midnight; overnight options also are available said Frank Lang, the hotel’s director of food and beverage. The event offers a variety of ways for guests to entertain themselves throughout several rooms.
“When you have multiple things going on, it reminds you of going to a club in New York,” he said, emphasizing that the scale of the event is unlike any other New Year’s celebration in town.
Chefs will man various stations and prepare meals such as penne ala vodka, carved beef loin and crawfish etouffee alongside desserts and snacks for later in the evening.
“It’s not your typical hotel buffet,” Lang said.
Comedy acts will rotate every 30 minutes; musical act Blind and Dirty will perform 70s style rock.
“It’s one of those functions where you’re going to be able to walk away with so many different experiences,” Lang said.
All three events and the many others held on New Year’s Eve aim to help start 2018 on the right foot.
“To me, it’s like a fresh start,” Lang said. “Whatever happened this year is done and we’re going to move on to the next.”
Want to go?
The Bobby “BlackHat” New Year’s Eve Spectacular will be from 7-10 p.m. Sunday at the Kimball Theatre. $25, tickets available at bobbyblackhat.com, 800-249-0179 or the Kimball Theater box office.
The PG-500 New Year’s Eve Block Party runs 7 p.m. Sunday to 1 a.m. Monday at 525 Prince George St. Admission is $20, available in advance at bit.ly/2zymZYS. Beer tickets available onsite for $5 each.
The DoubleTree by Hilton Williamsburg New Year’s Eve Extravaganza begins at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at 50 Kingsmill Road. Packages start at $95, available by visiting at williamsburg.doubletree.com or calling 220-2500.
Opulence: A New Year’s Eve Event: Ford’s Colony celebrates with music by DJ Panda, drinks, dancing and a special KidZone. 8 p.m. Sunday at the Ford’s Colony Country Club, 240 Ford’s Colony Drive. $50, tickets available at bit.ly/2DfKIPM; for KidZone registration, email email@example.com.
New Year’s Eve dinner: Enjoy four course of Spanish cuisine paired with four Spanish wines. 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. at La Tienda, 1325 Jamestown Road. $85, sign up at bit.ly/2DVkva6.
VFW New Year’s Eve Party: Food and drinks will complement live music by Lightstreet. Proceeds support VFW Post 4639. $20 or $35 for couples, tickets available at bit.ly/2BGhCJ6.
Birkenmeyer can be reached by phone at 757-790-3029.