First Night renamed Last Night, will return to the square in 2011

Photo by Dustin Bartholomew
Former First Night director Amy Robinson and CEAG member Lauren Embree at Matt Miller Studios.

After 13 years in existence, the First Night celebration on New Year’s Eve came to an abrupt halt in Fayetteville last year.

Thanks to the folks at the Creative Economy Action Group (or CEAG for short), however, that celebration will be renamed, revitalized, and moved back to its original location in 2011.

“I know a lot of people were upset that the event didn’t happen last year,” said CEAG member Lauren Embree during an announcement event held Thursday at Matt Miller Studio. “We’re excited to be bringing this unique event back to the Fayetteville square this year.”

The event will be renamed “Last Night Fayetteville” due to a copyright issue with First Night, but several of the signature activities from previous First Night celebrations will be included in the revitalized event. Jo Ann Kaminsky’s puppet parade, for example, will continue to be part what organizers hope can become a better, more inclusive New Years’ Eve celebration.

“We definitely want to bring Jo Ann back,” Embree said. “Her puppets are one of the things that make our celebration unlike any other.”

A fireworks display, a kid zone, a teen area, costume contests, a performing arts stage, and an outdoor beer garden are some of the activities in the works for Last Night Fayetteville.

“The family-friendly aspect of the event is something that we want to continue,” Embree said. “We also want to have more adult-oriented activities so that everyone can have a good time.”

First Night Fayetteville began in 1997 as part of a nationwide network of First Night celebrations. The event was originally held on the square, but was moved to the Northwest Arkansas Mall in 2008 in an effort to become more of a regional attraction.

Last year, organizers of First Night cancelled the event due to lack of board member capacity. At the time, director Amy Robinson issued a plea for volunteers to help revive the event, and it appears as though that plea has been answered.

“I think it’s great, and I’m so happy that there are so many passionate people involved,” she said. “It really feels like they have everything in place to make Last Night a great event, and of course they have access to all the knowledge in our brains on past events if they need it.”