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LAST OUT 95, FIRST IN 96 // Focus is on family at First Night activities

Published Jul. 6, 2006

For the third year, downtown St. Petersburg is ready to ring in the New Year with "First Night," a celebration Sunday where family and friends can enjoy top local entertainment and artists.

More than 100 live performers will be featured at Straub Park and 28 other sites throughout the downtown. "It's a necessary alternative to the traditional New Year's celebration," says "First Night" St. Petersburg artistic/logistic director Allen Loyd, who has worked on Albany, N.Y.'s "First Night" for the past seven years and now brings his expertise to the Gulf Coast of Florida. "Cities everywhere are eager to provide this showcase for artists that is family orientated."

When Loyd refers to a "wide variety of things to do," this isn't a promoter talking. In fact, those who buy buttons to "First Night '96" in St. Petersburg (just as for Tampa's) are given a glossy brochure with a schedule of the numerous events that begin at 4 p.m. and end after midnight.

To buy an admission button to the alcohol-free festival in St. Petersburg, stop by any Pinellas County Barnett Bank, local Circle-K store, The Pier, City Hall or Tyrone Square Mall's City Hall kiosk or the Bayfront Center Box Office.

Buttons cost $7; children under 10 are free.

Familiar stops range from the Museum of Fine Arts to the Snell Arcade. One of the highlights of the St. Petersburg event is that Belinda Womack & the Kool Reflektions perform from 9-9:45, 10-10:45 p.m. and again at midnight for the big New Year's countdown at North Straub Park. At the Florida International Museum, the entertainment begins with the Bayside String Quartet from 7-8:30 p.m., continues with Glorious Brass from 9-9:45 and ends at 10 with a half-hour performance by the Kuumba Dancers. At Jannus Landing, approximately from 8 to 10 p.m., there's country music featuring Larry & Tea Holly Country Line dancing.

An 11:45 p.m. call to the North Straub Stage is also planned where "First Night" attendees can kiss 1995 goodbye and welcome in the New Year at midnight.

How to get around to all these events? St. Petersburg offers shuttle service traveling between The Pier and 5th Avenue North via Central Avenue and 2nd Avenue North.

Downtown restaurants are also participating in "First Night," which means that party-goers will have access to snacks or dinner at a sit-down place in addition to the many food vendors who will be located throughout the area. Some of the restaurants are JoJo's Cafe, 200 Central Avenue, and Saffron's Island Jam, 140 5th Street N. Restaurants are listed on the "First Night" brochure given to button buyers.

For more information on "First Night" in St. Petersburg, call 823-8906.