top of page


First Night Evanston is an artistic and cultural celebration on New Year's Eve, held in the past from afternoon until midnight to ring in the new year. This year since we are still in the pandemic, we have scaled back the program. Hopefully next year, we can return to a full day of programming with children's events in the afternoon.

In the past First Night Evanston featured music that ranged from bluegrass to Caribbean to jazz to opera. Magicians, a poetry slam, comedy, and dancing: ballroom, folk, square and line dancing, drew large audiences. Kids had their own part of the day that in years past included a Flea Circus with Michael Kett, Nick Connelly with his unusual balloon figures, Jeanie Bratschie getting the kids up and moving,  and the Mad Scientist and his activities.

Since the first time here welcoming 1992, First Night Evanston continued to bring together first-class talent, both national and local. To celebrate the millennium, a crowd of over 15,000 people (from over 70 zip codes) enjoyed activities at nearly 50 locations. With the economic downturn in 2007-08, many First Nights across the country folded. So did First Night Evanston, paying all contracted performers and formally disbanding with the state and the IRS.

In 2013 when planning began to celebrate Evanston’s 150th anniversary, some of the founders of First Night Evanston met and decided to bring back the event to cap off a full year of local events. That year over 3000 people attended in spite of a 6” of snow by nightfall.

Please include First Night in your plans for new year’s eve, 12/31/22. Please consider contributing to help support the artists of First Night Evanston.


Here's a little video scrapbook of memories from a past New Year's Eve. What a fantastic night! Let's do it again!

Why is it called First Night?

Why is it called “first night” when it's really the last night of the year? 

The name originated in Boston in what was the founding celebration in 1976. Artist Clara Wainwright and some friends came up with the idea of a New Year’s Eve celebration that would draw in families, involve children, and wasn’t just about partying, according to a 2006 article in The New York Times.:

So, while it’s somewhat of a misnomer to call it first night, strictly speaking, Wainwright and the event organizers made that word choice consciously in 1976. “We wanted to focus on the positive,” she told The New York Times, “and ‘first night’ is like a theatrical opening.”


bottom of page