About First Night Evanston
First Night Evanston (FNE) began in December of 1992 when the idea was brought here by Anny Heydemann who attended one in Boston with her son and his family. She took the idea to Joe Zendell, staff person for the City of Evanston Arts Council. He found funding at the Illinois Arts Council, the Evanston Arts Council, Downtown Evanston and many other local businesses and organizations.
Unfortunately the City of Evanston is no longer a sponsor; neither is the State of Illinois or the Arts Council. FNE relies on contributions from local businesses, organizations, contributors and the audience in order to keep the ticket price affordable.
This year the event will be FREE and supported in part by donations from the audience.
To celebrate the millennium in 2000, over 15,000 people from over 70 zip codes joined in the daylong events. Evanston's was one of the largest New Year Eve’s events in the US with a budget of over $250,000. There were over 100 acts at more than 40 locations, all located in or near the downtown, with 500 volunteers helping staff the sites.
After that large celebration, many First Nights in Illinois and across the country had difficulty in getting funding. A lot of them closed up shop. First Night Evanston found itself in the same position. In October 2006, FNE disbanded. All bills were paid, the corporation formally dissolved, and the 501c3 status abandoned.
As 2013 approached and planning began for the 150th anniversary of Evanston’s incorporation in 1863, several former First Night board members discussed bringing back the event to cap off the anniversary year and all the many events taking place. The organization re-incorporated with the State of Illinois in 2012 and renewed the 501c3 status.
No one wanted to take on the task of raising $250,000, so by shrinking the size and scope of the event, the budget also became smaller. $50-75,000 was the goal.
Raymond Park (in the 1500 block of Chicago between Grove and Lake) served as a hub for the event in the venues located around there:
First Presbyterian Church
First Congregational Church
Immanuel Lutheran Church
Music Institute of Chicago
Lake Street Baptist Church and
First Methodist Church just two blocks north at Church
Members of the congregations provided staffing along with additional volunteers recruited online.
In December of 2013, despite 6” of snow falling by 6 p.m., over 3000 people attended the renewed First Night Evanston. Since then we have continued to bring together first class talent, both national and local.
This year because of the pandemic and the lockdown, First Night will be hosting a virtual concert featuring Corky Siegel and friends. Admission is FREE. Donations are encouraged to help compensate the performers and enable us to build a reserve for live performances on 12/31/21.
We hope you'll join us.