First Night Returns with New Public Art, Live Game Show, And Old Favorites

Dec 27, 2019

First Night Pittsburgh has been the city’s biggest New Year’s Eve event since 1994, and the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust isn’t messing with success. The 26th edition, sponsored by Highmark, remains a huge festival offering some 100 live acts, exhibitions, and activities downtown all night long. There’s wall-to-wall live music, most attractions are indoors, and fireworks will cap the evening at midnight.

Highmark First Night Pittsburgh: 6 p.m.-12 midnight Tue., Dec. 31. Downtown

Still, the 25,000 or more anticipated visitors can expect a few new wrinkles at Tuesday’s event.

One is “Prismatica,” a public-art installation consisting of 25 tall prisms in the Trust Oasis, a lot on Seventh Avenue near Penn. The prisms, created by Montreal’s Quartier de Spectacles Partnership, are mounted on concrete bases and can be rotated by visitors; kaleidoscopes within cast colored lights to create what the Trust calls “an interactive modern ice palace.” “Prismatica” will remain until March.

Another First Night novelty is a special preview of Game Time!, the Trust’s new live, large-scale, monthly game show. On New Year’s Eve, the game is The Point, which Sarah Aziz, the Trust’s program manager of festivals and special projects, describes as a combination of billiards and putt-putt golf for teams of four.

“You’ll have to first hit a golf ball using a golf putter into a hole at the bottom of sort of the putt-putt course,” said Aziz. “Then somebody has to crank it to go up the incline. Then somebody has to pool-shoot it into another hole and it comes down and then you have to shoot into the fountain down at the Point.”

Game Time! is at the Trust Arts Education Center. As with all First Night events, admission is free with a First Night button, which costs $10. (Participating Giant Eagles have buttons for half price; kids ages 5 and under attend free.) However, some events, including Game Time!, require reservations because of limited seating.

First Night begins at 6 p.m. with fireworks for kids at the Dollar Bank Stage, at Penn and Stanwix. Other big draws include the "Take Flight" New Year’s Eve Parade down Penn, which features everything from high school marching bands and local celebrities to fire trucks and oversized puppets by Studio Capezzuti. Fire and Ice Plaza, at Penn and Ninth Street, features fire-arts performers alongside live ice-sculpting. Elsewhere on the street, there’s soul line dancing, tents with hands-on activities for kids, and more.

Indoor programs include a comedy showcase at the Byham Theater; magic by Jon Tai and Robert Ramiez, at Liberty Magic and the O’Reilly Theater, respectively; dance by Zuzu African Acrobats, at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture; tarot-card readings; puppet karaoke courtesy of BOOM Concepts; and author talks as part of the Trust’s Bookish in the ’Burgh children’s-book festival.

Most of downtown’s visual-art venues will be open, including ongoing exhibits at SPACE and Wood Street galleries. The August Wilson Center hosts The Dream Wall Project, a traveling community art installation in which visitors answer the question: What is your dream for our shared future?

Music is staged both indoors and outdoors, with everything from classical and jazz to gospel, rock, soul, acoustic singer-songwriters, and bagpiping. The main-stage headliners are The Shadowboxers, a harmony-driven pop band who recently toured in support of Justin Timberlake.

The Shadowboxers will be onstage at midnight for First Night's accustomed fireworks and raising of the Future of Pittsburgh Ball.

In addition to participating Giant Eagles, First Night admission buttons are available online here, in person at the Box Office at Theater Square, or by phone at 412-456-6666.