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Northampton Holds 28th First Night

Tens of thousands of people are celebrating  the new year in Northampton Massachusetts at First Night.  But 2013 brings an uncertain future for the family friendly arts and entertainment event.  WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill  reports

   First Night Northampton 2013 will be the last one put on by the Northampton Center for the Arts, which launched the annual event 28 years ago and has been the principle sponsor ever since. The center’s director, Penny Burke, who is producing her 10th, and she says last First Night, said it is time for another organization to take over.

   First Night Northampton started 28 years ago with just evening performances at a few locations. Now it runs for 12 hours, starting with a parade at noon, fireworks at 6 and the ball raising on the roof of the Hotel Northampton at midnight.  There are more than 70 performers at 20 venues.  The planning and the process of booking performers, renting venues ,obtaining  permits and securing sponsors is nearly a year round job.

   Burke says the Center for the Arts will concentrate on its primary mission of advocating on behalf of local artists and venues.

   Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz said he is confident this will not be the last First Night in Northampton.

   The mayor said he will convene a meeting in a few weeks with representatives from the city’s business and cultural communities to discuss the future of First Night.

     The city of Northampton provides financial support to First Night, with a $6,000 line item in this year’s municipal budget. The downtown Business Improvement District pays for the fireworks show.

   Center for the Arts Executive Director Burke  said producing her last First Night Northampton, has been bittersweet.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.