The family-friendly, alcohol-free New Year’s Eve party known as First Night St. Petersburg is back this year, thanks to sponsorships by the Tampa Bay Rays and the Hines Historic Gas Plant Partnership, which is proposing a redevelopment plan for the 86-acre site where the baseball team’s current stadium sits.
And this year, the First Night buttons, which ranged from $5 to $15 in the past for entry to the concerts and other premiere events, will not be required.
North Straub Park will be filled with music, art, interactive displays, theater, dance and more, organizers said on the First Night website. “Best of all, this year’s celebration is free for everyone and all ages, thanks to our sponsors, Hines and the Tampa Bay Rays.”
Last holiday season, First Night organizers cited a lull in sponsorship support and continued COVID-19 uncertainty to “pause” the family-friendly party to ring in the new year. By picking it up again, this will be the 30th year for the downtown party.
Over the past three decades, First Night has grown into a huge celebration. There were music acts on multiple stages across downtown St. Petersburg, street performers, artists producing live displays, fireworks shows and interactive activities like drum circles, tree climbing and kids stomping on a block-long sheet of bubble wrap.
Although admission is free this year, commemorative buttons will be available for purchase at firstnightstpete.com.
“The purchase of buttons is not required but every purchase will go back into the arts and programming,” organizers said on the event’s website.
The pandemic forced the event to go virtual in 2020. It returned in 2021 with eight hours of music, fire jugglers, kids play areas and fireworks shows at both 8 p.m. and midnight. Organizers asked for attendees to buy a button for entry, which ranged from $5 to $15 to pay for the all-volunteer event.
But in 2022, the event was canceled, with board chairman Hal Freedman saying: “COVID slowed us down and picking up momentum again with presenting sponsors has proven difficult.”