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First Night celebration returns to Tacoma after last year's cancellation

Adrian Florez

Tacoma's annual New Year's Eve celebration, First Night, returns this year after it was canceled last year due to a budget shortfall.

The event includes performances and celebrations throughout Tacoma's Theater District beginning at six 6 p.m. on Dec. 31. Some events are free, while others require the purchase of a button, which functions like a ticket.

First Night is designed as a family-friendly alternative to boozier New Year's Eve events. It went on for 25 years before the 2018 cancellation.

It returns this year with a new theme, "Tree of Life," inspired by Puyallup tribal traditions, said Naarah McDonald, director of the volunteer group that organizes the event, Theatre District Associates. 

"People will see something new at First Night this year," McDonald said. "And that's really exciting, to be able to come back after a year off and really have an engaging theme that honors both where we're at and where we're going." 

McDonald said organizers worked closely with city officials and arts organizations to ensure First Night could return. A $20,000 gift from the Puyallup Tribe helped the event get back on its feet, she said.

Among new elements, like a night market, will be familiar First Night traditions, McDonald said.

"We have some of our traditional elements come back, with our 'world's shortest parade,' that walks basically three blocks," she said. "Our ice walk is back. So we do have traditional elements that have been part of our organization for many, many years." 

Will James is a former KNKX reporter and was part of the special projects team, reporting and producing podcasts such as Outsiders and The Walk Home.