Looks Like Boston’s First Night Arts Festival Will Ring in 2014

Despite the popular event's longtime organizer going out of business, donors like the Highland Street Foundation have stepped up to save the beloved New Year's Eve tradition.

Congratulations, New Year’s Eve revelers. The annual First Night arts festival, canceled earlier this year when the longtime organizer shuttered, will still be happening come December 31, 2013, thanks to donors like Highland Street Foundation, which gave $100,000 to support the popular celebration and will be the lead sponsor for the upcoming event.

Highland Street has been a driving force in free, affordable arts and entertainment events in Boston this year, having just sponsored ArtWeek as well as bringing you 60 Free Fun Fridays this summer. The foundation’s executive director, Blake Jordan, told the Globe:

Boston needs First Night. … It was created here, [there’s] something for everyone, and I think that’s what Highland Street is all about.

In June, the nonprofit organization that had run First Night for 37 years said they had to close down the operation due to lack of funding. The announcement was a disappointment to many who’d associated New Year’s in the city with First Night, the country’s oldest and largest New Year’s arts festival. Since 1976, the event had grown to entertain up to a million Boston residents and visitors each year with fireworks, ice sculptures, parades, and thousands of artists across hundreds of live performances.

People thought First Night to be such an institution in the city that many refused to give up hope. “If there is a will, there’s a way,” Mayor Menino said, and sure enough, within a day of the organization’s announcement that they would close, other businesses contacted the mayor’s office with offers to help keep the event going.

And it’s fitting that saving First Night might be one of Menino’s last great wins as mayor. Starting in early January 2014, the weight of maintaining such beloved traditions (and creating new ones) will fall on someone else’s shoulders.