First Night Pittsburgh promises food, fun and fireworks

Scholars say Dec. 31 is more than an excuse to keep calendar-makers in business -- it's also an invitation to have a great time. In the hours leading to the stroke of midnight, Highmark First Night Pittsburgh has you covered Downtown.

(To see a list of New Year's events around the area, visit

Here are seven facts you'll need to know:

1. Mr. McFeeley is leading the parade. Yes, Fred Rogers' pal from the neighborhood is this year's grand marshal, parading at 8 p.m. with First Night founder Jamee Todd and former Mayor Tom Murphy. They'll be followed by a rowdy group of giant puppets, art cars, marching bands and bicyclists.

2. A former James Brown impersonator is headlining a night to remember. R&B performer Charles Bradley, along with his Extraordinaires, will cap the night's musical entertainment at Highmark Stage. He'll launch the Future of Pittsburgh Grand Finale, culminating in the ceremonial ascent of a 1,000-pound ball at midnight to 150 feet above Penn Avenue Place.

But before that, First Night will host more than 150 art events across 50 indoor and outdoor venues in Downtown's Cultural District. Country band North of Mason-Dixon will start the festivities at 6 p.m. at the Dollar Bank Stage. Among others, look for Joy Ike and the Broken Fences at 805/807 Liberty Ave.; the Mission Statement 2014 Reunion Band at the Trust Arts Education Building; Johnny Angel & the Halos at the Benedum Center; and River City Brass at the Byham Theater.

More into theatrics? Bricolage Production Co. is presenting multiple 30-40 minute adventures leading visitors through the world of art. Attack Theatre, which has been with First Night since the beginning, will perform at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, along with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School.

Too many artistic options to list here, but check out It Was The Coldest Winter Ever, a miniature city built from re-purposed junk and brought to life by puppeteer Zach Dorn.

3. Your kids could get lost in an frozen maze. Make sure your little ones survive a visit through First Night's first-ever ice labyrinth, a five-foot high block maze studded with LEDs. The 1,600-square foot puzzle was designed by Ice Creations' Rich Bubin and commemorates First Night's 20th anniversary. Look for it by the Eighth Street parking lot.

Children can recover at the First National Bank Family tent, which offers hands-on activities under the watchful eyes of local sports mascots.

4. There's no such thing as a free lunch, or First Night. All-access buttons cost $8 in advance (get them at Giant Eagle locations or at The Box Office at Theater Square, 655 Penn Ave.) or $10 the night of the event. Kids 5 and under can get in for free.

You'll need to reserve a free voucher ticket for certain indoor events -- check if the performance you've been dying to see requires one at

5. Parking shouldn't be that bad. All Downtown parking garages will remain open throughout the night except for EQT's garage and Penn Parking Garage.

Taking a bus? Kids younger than 13 can ride for free if accompanied by a parent with a First Night all-access badge.

6. Fear not starvation, for you shall find yourself well-provisioned. Chow down with the food trucks parked at Ninth Street and Penn Avenue. Trucks include PGH Pierogi Truck, Franktuary, Saucy Mama's, The Greek, Bubba's Kettle Corn, John's Funnel Cakes and Gonuts Coffee and Donuts.

7. Yes, there will be fireworks. And yes, they're by Zambelli.

Andrew McGill: or 412-263-1497.

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