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Thousands Expected For 22nd Annual 'First Night' Celebration


Roughly 40,000 people are expected to make their way downtown this year for Pittsburgh’s annual New Year’s celebration.

Kevin McMahon, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, said the events offered at “First Night 2016” are going to be more diverse than ever.

“Our theme this year is ‘Around the World, Around the ‘Burgh’ and so we’re telling people that you can experience all kinds of art and culture from around the globe without ever leaving Pittsburgh,” McMahon said. “So that’s our big, new thing this year.”

Some of the events include performances by The Wailers, Lyndsey Smith & Soul Distribution, a singing competition judged by Smokey Robinson, as well as numerous arts and family events. Find the full list of events on the First Night website.

The cost of admission to the indoor venues is $8 in advance and $10 that night, and children 5 years and younger get in for free.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said the event, in its 22nd year, aims to be fun and family-friendly.

“We can’t emphasize that enough … from 8 to 80 (years old), you can come to this event and enjoy yourself, and that’s something that I think also is a Pittsburgh institution,” Fitzgerald said.

The event starts at 6 p.m. and comes to a close at midnight with the rise of the “Future of Pittsburgh” ball atop the Highmark Building.  

McMahon said the total number of visitors every year is somewhat dependent on the weather.

“If it’s a great night on New Year’s Eve, we generally get a few more people,” he said. “But even with inclement weather, because about 90 percent of the activities are inside, even if it’s cold or a little snow-flake-y, we get a really terrific crowd.”

He said the event also brings hundreds of thousands of dollars into downtown.

“We bring people here from eastern Ohio, from Washington County, from Morgantown,” he said. “Even up as far as Erie, people come into downtown Pittsburgh, so that’s all great for our local economy.”

McMahon said public safety is a top priority, and in light of recent events, organizers have re-examined safety procedures.

“At the end of the day,” he said, “we are a free country, and we want to continue to have these wonderful events and make them as accessible to everyone as possible.”

Tickets for the event can be purchased through the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s website, box office and at some Giant Eagle locations.