First Night was initiated in Boston in 1976 by a group of artists and civic-minded citizens as an alternative to traditional parties. Today, the drug-and-alcohol-free First Night style of celebration has taken off across the world. First Night is celebrated in over 115 cities from San Diego, California to Auckland, New Zealand.
WNY United Against Drug and Alcohol Abuse in cooperation with Rich Products initiated First Night in downtown Buffalo on December 31, 1989. Due to both the human resources and financial costs to produce this event, they made the decision not to continue it after the first three years.
In 1992, Independent Health, through its Foundation secured the event and has produced it for the past twenty years. This event is now in its 26th year.
The first few years that First Night was presented brought only a few thousand people to downtown Buffalo. Now, this event draws approximately 5,000 people from the city and suburbs to attend a wide variety of visual and performing arts, music and dance, sports activities and children's entertainment.
Admission ticket sales generate only a very small portion of the budget necessary to implement an event of this magnitude. Therefore, the generous financial support of the corporate community makes up the difference through fundraising efforts and financial sponsorships to pay for the entertainment, advertising, insurance, printing, technical needs, security, etc.
Volunteers are also a crucial component to the success of this event. Over 100 individuals assist in a myriad of responsibilities including pre-event set up, crowd control, site management, hanging corporate banners and checking admissions at the event. The loyalty of these volunteers is astounding with over half of them returning year after year.
From various venues, audiences are exposed to a rich variety of entertainment ranging from interactive dance, poetry, comedy, to the performing arts like puppet shows and theatrical performances. Dazzling attractions like your child's favorite costumed characters, obstacle challenges, bounce houses, and jugglers fuel the synergy. Great classics, today's beat, cultural traditions and inventive creativity - First Night Buffalo has it all!
Attending and participating in a First Night celebration leaves a memorable and lasting impression on the audience. Despite the winter cold, they are warmed by a love for the city, a heart-felt appreciation for the arts and the common bond of a community celebrating the New Year together in a healthy, drug-and-alcohol-free atmosphere.