First Night's new afternoon DIY Festival offers fun for all ages

For years, First Night Raleigh’s Children’s Celebration has taken over downtown state museums and outdoor areas for family friendly fun on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve with everything from crafts and performances to games of Twister using acorns.

But, this year, First Night’s organizers are shaking things up a bit. The day’s events still begin at 2 p.m. inside and outside the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences and the N.C. Museum of History. There will still be crafts and games and performances for young children.

But there’s a new name: The DIY Festival. And there’s a new goal: To offer activities for all ages – from young children to teens and adults.

“What we decided was that we really wanted, in the afternoon, to offer some things that will appeal to all ages,” said Terri Dollar, the long-time event organizer. “What we were finding at the Children’s Celebration was that people really love to bring really small children. But teenagers, they weren’t finding anything for them to do.”

With dozens of events and venues, First Night has always been a kind of “do-it-yourself” event, Dollar said. Visitors buy tickets, which allow them entry into any of the performances, activities and rides.

“We thought we would really take it to the next level,” she said.

The DIY Festival runs 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 31, in downtown Raleigh. Capitalizing on the wave of interest in crafts and do-it-yourself projects, the festival will feature not just arts, crafts and performances, but how those artists, crafters and performers do their work.

For instance, a nail artist will teach the tricks of her trade. Older teens and adults can attempt to replicate her work. Younger kids will be able to, for instance, put stickers on their nails.

Some stations such as the nail art area will feature opportunities for all ages. Others might be better for younger kids or older teens and adults. But, all together, there will be plenty to keep visitors of all ages entertained and busy.

Other stations include opportunities to learn more about weaving and urban sketching; try card print making; create woven bracelets; make a pinch pot; or take a ukulele lesson.

“Even the performers in the afternoon, a portion of their performances are going to be talking about how they did it themselves, how they create,” Dollar said.

They include a 3:30 p.m., guitar demonstration by Presley Barker, an award-winning 11-year-old bluegrass musician, at the N.C. Museum of History.

“It really won’t just appeal to little kids,” Dollar said. “There’s a lot for little kids, but we wanted to try to attract people who are coming with older folks.”

The DIY Festival ends at 6 p.m. with the People’s Procession, which takes people from the museum area to City Plaza on Fayetteville Street for the early 7 p.m. countdown, acorn drop and fireworks. In between the early countdown and the official one at midnight, there are all sorts of performances and activities.

If you’re taking kids, here are some to look out for in addition to the DIY Festival. These activities and performances all are included in admission. (Keep reading for tips if you’re taking kids).

  • “Marvels, Medals and Midnight by Seed Art Share: This interactive walking play lets you choose the ending. It starts at 4 p.m., 5 p.m., 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. at City of Raleigh Museum.
  • TapSnap Interactive Photo Booth: Get your picture taken and then add customizable graphics to make it your own. You’ll be able to print out your picture there. From 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. in the City of Raleigh Museum.
  • “This Year I Will” Wall: Write your resolutions for 2017 on special walls around the festival.
  • African American Dance Ensemble Performance: The First Night Raleigh favorite is back for 7:30 p.m., 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., performances at First Presbyterian Church’s Fellowship Hall. The choreographic works of the African American Dance Ensemble depict customs, traditions and occasions of African life, according to First Night’s website.
  • Movies: Dollar recommends both “Changeover” and “There’s My Angel,” both in the WRAL 3D Theatre at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences. “There’s My Angel” is at 7 p.m. and great for all ages, Dollar said. “Changeover,” at 9 p.m., is best for older teens and adults.
  • ShadowGrass: A group made up of young bluegrass musicians from western North Carolina, the group will perform at 9 p.m. in the Church of the Good Shepherd Sanctuary. They’ll also perform at the early countdown at 7 p.m.

And som tips if you’re going with kids:

  • Download the mobile app. The First Night app has all kinds of really useful information – from maps to schedules and more. Before you go, explore the app to start making plans and checking off what you want to see.
  • Plan for two or three activities: It’s impossible to see everything that First Night has to offer. Dollar recommends picking two or three performances or activities and planning the rest of your time around those. If you’re taking kids, she recommends coming with a couple of adults so, for instance, one child can take a ukulele lesson as they other one explores urban sketching.
  • Check out the app’s suggested itineraries: Overwhelmed by all of the choices? Dollar, the mom of two adult daughters, has been planning the event for years. She has loaded suggested itineraries designed for just about every group – from those with lots of different ages in their parties to those with active kids to those with film buffs.
  • Go for early golfing: Nearly all of the activities are Dec. 31, but one – Art Putt – opens on Friday afternoon. The miniature golf course features nine holes created by local artists. It will be on Market Plaza between Fayetteville Street and Wilmington Street. If you go on Friday, you’ll also have a chance to see crews assemble the Ferris wheel and pirate ride, which will open at 2 p.m., Saturday, on Fayetteville Street.
  • Don’t wait on the rides: Dollar recommends people ride the Ferris wheel and pirate ship as early as they can. Around 2 p.m., Saturday, the lines won’t be long at all. By the evening, however, those lines will be pretty long.

Dollar suggests this itinerary for those with little kids, who are planning on leaving after the early countdown: Get downtown before 2 p.m. and park near the convention center. Walk up Fayetteville Street and hop on the rides, then head down to the DIY Festival for fun. Return to Fayetteville Street for the 7 p.m. early countdown and then get those kids to bed.

“Planning is key,” Dollar said. “Don’t just show up. Plan what you want to do. Then you won’t be disappointed.”

Passes purchased in advance – online or at locations around Wake County – are $10. The price jumps to $14 for adults and $11 for kids ages 6 to 12. Kids 5 and under are free.

First Night’s website has more information.

A special thank you to our friends at WRAL for helping out with this post.