Thousands Throw A Party For 2013

Harrisonburg’s Downtown Celebration Draws Revelers For New Year’s Fun, Fireworks

Posted: January 2, 2013

Having fun’s a snap for children on a carpet of bubble wrap at a dance party in front of the Explore More Discovery Museum that was part of First Night festivities. (Photos by Michael Reilly / DN-R)
Emikal Porter, 6, and his sister, Eternity, 4, of Hinton, enjoy life on the bubbles during the dance party.
Ariel Vogel (left) and Phoebe Copeland, both 15 of Harrisonburg, contemplate their New Year’s resolutions Monday night on Court Square.
Elvis tribute artist Wrenn Mangum of Richmond belts out a rendition of “Suspicious Minds” during a performance in the City Council chambers.
Celebrating children (left to right) Inse Lopez-Flores, 12, her brother Logan, 8, Madison Signorino, 12, and Jodis Hegg, 11, dance to “Gangnam Style” on Court Square Monday evening.

HARRISONBURG — Angela Fillar and her son, Diego, 18, had never seen snow before Monday.

Natives of Brazil who now live in Florida, the Fillars simply haven’t had any opportunities to witness the winter weather phenomena.

And Diego and Michael Cline’s daughter, Nikki, 13, had never been to Washington, D.C., either.

So the group of Jacksonville, Fla., residents headed to the nation’s capital to see the sights and, they hoped, some of the white stuff.

But the flakes didn’t materialize.

Their solution? Drive until they see snow.

That’s how they ended up in Harrisonburg and ultimately found their way to the city’s First Night New Year’s Eve celebration.

They were among a crowd of about 2,000 people who purchased buttons — which serve as tickets to various First Night activities — for the family-friendly, alcohol-free downtown bash.

Festivities this year included musical performances, dancing and activities for kids.

“It sounded like a lot of fun. I can act like an idiot without getting drunk,” Cline, 41, joked.

For the winter-weather newbies, the snow met expectations, and they didn’t think the Friendly City was too shabby, either.

“I like it. It’s beautiful,” Angela Fillar, 42, said.

Out-of-town visitors like the Clines and Fillars aren’t uncommon at First Night, organizers say, joining locals to kick off the New Year in celebratory fashion.

‘Festive And Fun’

First held in Harrisonburg in 1993, First Night has been observed in cities across the United States and world since it originated in Boston in 1976.

“Something for the whole family to do, young and old,” First Night Harrisonburg board member Lori Snell said.

Stephanie Hutchinson, president of the board, said about 3,000 people gathered to watch the fireworks at midnight, blending the First Night crowd with those ringing in 2013 in downtown restaurants.

With so many revelers enjoying the event, it can be hard to imagine it didn’t happen just two years ago.

Due to a lack of volunteers, the Harrisonburg celebration was canceled in 2010, creating a void that many felt, organizers say.

Community members then came together and decided to reinvigorate the affair.

“The year this did not happen,” Snell said, “people asked for it.”

Revelers aren’t the only ones who enjoy taking part in the festivities.

“For us, it’s also just a part of being in the downtown community,” said Melanie Veith, program manager of the Explore More Discovery Museum, formerly the Harrisonburg Children’s Museum. “And it’s festive, and it’s fun.”

Contact Jeremy Hunt at 574-6273 or