Local News

Raleigh readies for First Night soirée

Posted December 30, 2011
Updated December 31, 2011

— Preparations were underway Friday for downtown Raleigh's French-themed First Night celebration.

Festival organizers worked to transform Fayetteville Street into a Paris boulevard, complete with a 90-foot Ferris wheel dubbed "La Grande Roue de Raleigh," before thousands of people take to the streets Saturday for an evening of family-friendly fun.

The Ferris wheel, installed on the corner of Fayetteville and Hargett streets, may look familiar – it's the same one that dazzled State Fair goers in October. But this time it's a nod to the famous La Grande Roue de Paris, built in 1900 for a world's fair in the city.

"It will be a very unique thing. No one has ever seen Raleigh in open air from this far up, so I think it will be great," said Terri Dollar, program director for Artsplosure, the arts group that organizes First Night.

The Ferris wheel setup caused some Raleigh residents to stop in their tracks.

first night ferris wheel First Night ferris wheel goes up

"I knew there was going to be a Ferris wheel, but I didn't think anything about it," said Lucetta Zaytoum. "We were running down the street and I went, "Whoa! What is that?' It's a Ferris wheel, right here in downtown. That is so awesome, totally riding it tomorrow."

Onlookers Amy Blitchok and Kelsey Dawson said watching the preparations downtown has convinced them to check out the First Night festivities for the first time.

"We didn't know about it, we just found out about it the other day, and we're coming down specifically to check it out," Blitchok said. 

First Night Raleigh 2012 logo First Night festival provides array of entertainment

"We were talking about what we were going to do, we didn't really know, and then we saw that all this was going on," Dawson said. "We're definitely excited to come down and be a part of it."

Earlier Friday, the city rushed to finish the famous acorn that drops at midnight.

The City Council voted unanimously in November to pay sculptor David Benson $3,400 to install three new copper panels on the 1,250-pound, steel-and-copper acorn, which was damaged in the April 16 tornado that swept through the city.

"There's a lot of pressure, isn't there? But I'll get it done," said Benson, who has spent weeks repairing the acorn. "Some people like to get it done way ahead of time, then they're done. They get their check, and they're just happy. I always do things and it's like the 11th hour and it's done."

The acorn, which spends 364 days of the year in Moore Square downtown, is a symbol of Raleigh and is lowered from a crane downtown to mark the countdown to the new year.

The 21st annual First Night Raleigh will cover a 20-block area of downtown and encompass more than two-dozen venues. This year’s celebration will feature comedy, dance, spoken word, interactive art installations and live music from performers representing genres including rock, blues, jazz, gospel, opera and folk.


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  • Chairman of the Bored Dec 30, 2011

    I have been to NYE's in Raleigh, New York, London and Sydney and I have to say, Raleigh is the best! Boo to bscutton1- I can't imagine what you think is wrong with First Night Raleigh. Dropping an acorn is appropriate for the City of Oaks! And the entire day of events surely surpass what other cities have for New Years Eve!

    Another reason why Raleigh is a world class city!

  • hawk_fan Dec 30, 2011

    Our family has gone to First Night for several years. There's plenty of law enforcement and a variety of events to attend if you plan ahead. The $9 buttons allow people access to events and a closer view of the acorn. However, even if you don't have the button, you can hear the music and see the drop. We like the events that they have for the kids and we've seen some great shows. And...what's wrong with dropping an acorn in "The City of Oaks"?

  • Bless Your Heart Bev Dec 30, 2011

    "I went to First Night a few years ago. I wasn't too impressed with it. Unless they get rid of that stupid nut and replace with something more like in NY and have some "not family friendly" events, I won't be doing it again." bscutton1

    Go to Times Square in New York then and enjoy yourself standing in solitude for 12+ hours by yourself without any ability to leave your place to even use the bathroom or have a drink or something to eat like Times Square. If you're not impressed don't go back. Many others will because it is a wonderful event and many people do enjoy it. The organizers do a great job of putting on a family friendly event for many people to enjoy for minimal cost. And the fireworks at midnight are spectacular!

  • bcsutton1 Dec 30, 2011

    I went to First Night a few years ago. I wasn't too impressed with it. Unless they get rid of that stupid nut and replace with something more like in NY and have some "not family friendly" events, I won't be doing it again.

  • truddle Dec 30, 2011

    Or how about the Tar Heel that gets dropped on Churchill Dr? Its a kids thing as it happens early.

  • vraptor Dec 30, 2011

    What about the pickle drop in mount olive? How about some coverage on that???

  • bombayrunner Dec 30, 2011

    this thing is a family event with no drinking ... boaring for any partier.

  • ElvisPresleyJr Dec 30, 2011

    I'm not really sure if many families will be taking their kids to this event. I'm sure the college crowd/underage drunks, maybe some rednecks from out of town will fill the streets, but I'm thinking most families with kids will stay home and do pizza and movies. Already got me some movie rentals along with some friends coming over so we can grill and chill here.

  • Mark Hayes Dec 30, 2011

    A night dedicated to the novice drinkers,hope all enjoy themselves safely but my preference is to stay home and off the streets,stay safe and enjoy.

  • ElvisPresleyJr Dec 30, 2011

    http://www.ncgccd.org/pdfs/pubs/2010gangreport.pdf ...this is from 2010 so to say this is outdated would be both an understatement. However, with the increased population growth alone in Wake and Durham Counties, you can get a clear sense of gang activity compared to the other counties across the state. Nevertheless, my opinion is...whether you're a victim of crime from a "wanna-be gangmember" or a "real gangmember"...you're still a victim.