The 26th edition of First Night North in St. Johnsbury begins at 4 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2018, and welcomes the new year when a giant ball of light – 13-feet in diameter and bigger than the one in Times Square – rises 100 feet in the air to count down to midnight and the beginning of 2019. The Foundry, a makers’ workshop in Lyndonville, is coming up with new high-tech lighting programmed to dazzle the crowd with luminous surprises right before the fireworks finale begins.

“I think it’s safe to say this will be the biggest New Year’s Eve celebration in Vermont,” predicts First Night North president Jay Sprout. “First Night Burlington decided to call it quits after last year’s freezing cold. So now, St. Johnsbury’s wide-ranging festival of the arts stands alone in Vermont. In fact, I don’t know of another New Year’s Eve celebration in northern New England that is on the scale of First Night North.”

As proof, Sprout points out that over 275 performers in over 50 acts will put on over 80 shows in 18 locations from Eastern to Western Avenue and across Main Street to entertain thousands of New Year’s Eve revelers of all ages.

As always, the majority of First Night artists are musicians. The region’s rich musical scene offers everything from classical to Celtic, folk to rock, blues to bluegrass, jazz to swing standards. But music is far from the whole story. Vaudeville and stand-up and improv comedy, a poetry slam and storytelling, marionette and planetarium shows, a magician and a hypnotist offer laughter and amazement. There are fire artists on Main St. and a heavy metal band in a storefront window on Eastern Ave. And with two venues dedicated to dance music, there’s no need to sit still during the eight solid hours of entertainment.

For complete information about all of the 20 new acts and 60-plus perennial favorites appearing New Year’s Eve pick up a 32-page First Night program guide or go to www.FirstNightNorth.org. The menus for First Night North food concessions and restaurants, including a pancake supper during the Family Fun Fair at the St. Johnsbury School are also listed.

“Come early; stay late,” says Sprout. “There’s far too much entertainment to do it all, but I encourage everyone to map out a plan to get in the shows that most interest them. Dress for cold and enjoy the warmth of the community gathered for a safe, alcohol-free, family-friendly celebration.”

Volunteers play an important role at First Night as they greet guests at venue entrances and make announcements. Those who work a two-hour shift are eligible for a free admission button to all First Night North events. To join the First Night North team of volunteers, sign up online at www.FirstNightNorth.org or call Catamount Arts 748-2600, extension 107, or stop by the Arts Center at 115 Eastern Avenue.

The website also has a link to buy First Night buttons online, which are also available by phone or in person through Catamount Arts.