First Night returns to downtown Port Townsend

PORT TOWNSEND – Hundreds of soup samples, four types of live music and lots of light: it’s First Night, returning this New Years Eve in downtown Port Townsend.

The nonprofit Production Alliance is orchestrating the festival, which will run from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. in a downtown block that will be pedestrian-only for this holiday on Friday.

On Water Street – between Madison and Monroe streets – as well as outside Pope Marine Park and inside the Cotton Building and the Jefferson Museum of Art & History, the space will be “light, lively and welcoming” , said Megan Claflin of the Alliance. The 30-by-40-foot tent that has been in Tyler Street Plaza for the past five weeks will be taken down on Water and Madison streets, as will a small herd of heaters to keep people relatively warm.

People of all ages are welcome to participate in activities ranging from a scavenger hunt to a lantern parade, Claflin added.

Walter McQuillen, a member of the Makah Nation who lives in Port Townsend, will display his tribal canoe.

Cindy Daily and volunteers from Discovery Bay Wild Bird Rescue will bring their living raptors to meet the people inside the Cotton Building.

The jugglers are booked to appear at Pope Marine Park, while their performance, like other outdoor festivities from the first night, is weather permitting.

“These guys are good, but no one can really juggle 30 mph winds,” Claflin joked.

The Unexpected Brass Band will lead the parade of lanterns around the square at 6.15 p.m., after the lanterns are decorated from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Then come the fire dancers at 7.45 p.m. and the traditional fireworks display and lifting of the large illuminated anchor at 9 p.m.

These launches are being carried out from Memorial Field, but the public will not be allowed to enter inside to watch, Claflin noted. People will be able to view the short fireworks display – hosted as always by Dr David Chuljian – from vantage points near downtown as well as from the fire tower on Jefferson Street and Tyler Uptown.

For Thaddeus Jurczynski, who brings the anchor to Memorial Field, the highlight of New Year’s Eve is when he hears someone gasp and say, “Look, this is our anchor! ”

He also reveled in the feeling of the first night: “Art creates community and community creates art,” as he puts it.

Jurczynski has a mixture of emotions this year: “pride, inclusion and gratitude to have been invited to create the anchor and to have been able to participate in this ceremony,” he said.

Port Townsend’s First Night debuted 14 winters ago as a party hosted by the Jefferson County Historical Society. It was an annual event until 2021, when it was canceled amid the pandemic, said Tara McCauley, the historical society’s program director.

This year’s comeback is a wave of music, art and activities, she said.

“I’m especially excited about the Soba gift,” McCauley said of the noodle soup samples – several hundred of them – that will be served as part of a Japanese New Year’s Eve tradition.

Friday will be the last chance to visit the Jefferson Museum of Art & History. It will stay open until 7 p.m. and then close for two months, she added.

The museum’s exhibits include “Witnessing Climate Change,” a mix of art and artifacts collected by expeditionary artist Maria Coryell-Martin of Port Townsend.

The museum will undergo a few updates, including a remodel to its senior citizen entrance doors, McCauley said.

Claflin, for his part, said First Night is meant to be a celebration of light, music and movement – a push towards the New Year. The festival is set up for people to move from one activity to another, indoors and out.

She knows this New Years Eve will be cold and says she can only hope for a night without too much rain and wind.

“We encourage people to come together,” Claflin said.


Jefferson County Senior Reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]

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