First Night Evanston is an artistic and cultural celebration on New Year's Eve, held most years from afternoon until midnight to ring in the new year. While some cities have all their events outside, other cities host events indoors with the cooperation of churches, stores, community banks and theaters.

In the past First Night Evanston featured music that ranges 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 in 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.

First Night Evanston will celebrate again this year with virtual performances by a wide variety of artists. No in-person dancing but you can certainly dance at home with family and friends. Please include First Night in your plans for new year’s eve, 12/31/21. 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.”



First Night Evanston is a family-friendly community Celebration of the Arts taking place on New Year's Eve since 1992.

Again this year because of Covid 19, First Night will host a virtual variety show celebration.

You can stay safe at home and still celebrate with Corky Siegel and all the performers we are lining up for our "Virtual Variety" show livestreamed on Mandolin.com.

First Night Evanston is a 501c3 non-profit Illinois corporation that relies on the generosity of local businesses, civic associations and individuals to keep this annual tradition alive.


First Night Evanston strives to make the event affordable, accessible and welcoming.

Thanks to corporate and community sponsors: Romano Wealth, Byline Bank (formerly First Bank and Trust), Northwestern University, Kiwanis Club, Hecky’s, Chicago Blues Guide, and members of the congregations at local churches for their continued support. New City Moving joined as a sponsor in early 2022. Thank them at 


​This year we are asking for contributions from our loyal audience. This will enable First Night to provide a streamed event on 12/31/21 that will be FREE.

Contributions will be requested for the event with a suggested number of $25 ($25 for 25 years) while reservations for the event are $35 with any amount accepted. 



This year's

"Virtual Variety" show takes place on New Year's Eve, December 31, 2021, starting at 9:45 pm CST. 

Corky Siegel will be back to host the "Virtual Variety" livestream concert. Corky will also perform a personal version of Auld Lang Syne with a countdown to midnight so we can virtually ring in the new year together.

Hooray for 2022!

A new, NEW year

for all of us.


Contact us

Questions? Contact us.






1003 Dobson, Evanston, IL, 60202-3816