For the past 18 years, Columbia residents have rung in the New Year with First Night Columbia as part of First Night USA — a national New Year’s community celebration organization. In an effort to be a more independent New Year’s Eve festival the event has disengaged from First Night and changed its name to Columbia Eve Fest.
“Over the last couple years, we were always paying a membership to use the name, and we decided we’d rather be utilizing the funds to channel into the festival itself and become an independent festival,” says Director Jane Accurso. “I think it’s going to give us a little more of a creative edge. With a new name, you’re able to start thinking fresh with fresh new ideas. It will also make the festival cheaper for attendees.”
Accurso says that though there will be changes to the event, many of the traditions will remain, and the event will still be family-friendly and alcohol-free. “As we’ve done before, there will be something for everyone,” Accurso says. “There will be some classical music, some bluegrass, some rock, some Cajun and lots of children’s events … a big variety of things.”
Per tradition, the evening will kick off with Boone Hospital Center’s Columbia Eve Fest 5K Run/Walk. “It’s always our first event of the day,” Accurso says. “It’s really fun and gets everybody in the right spirit of new beginnings. It really set things going in a good direction.”
Though Columbia Eve Fest will still take place in downtown Columbia, one of the biggest changes is the compaction of the event’s footprint to one block between Elm Street and Locust Street, which Accurso says is for safety reasons. “It’s a really risky time of year in terms of weather,” she says. “It just made me feel that it was safer for our attendees and also just more convenient for them to compact the festival.”
The fireworks celebration at midnight has been canceled as well, due to potential weather hazards.
Last year’s theme was “All About Guitars,” but unlike previous years, there will be no theme to this year’s festival. Instead, Accurso says the new name will be the theme.
Events and activities will take place in the Missouri Theatre, Missouri United Methodist Church and Columbia Art League and along the block. There will also be local food truck vendors.
Because the festival is so weather-dependent, the number of attendees each year varies. Two years ago, around 10,000 people attended; last year, 6,000 people attended in inclement weather. “It was really, really touching how many people showed up,” Accurso says. “I think this year will be even better.”
$6 in advance, $8 at the door; free for children 6 and younger; 5K Run/Walk at 4 p.m., entertainment at 7 p.m.; downtown Columbia; 573-874-7460; www.columbiaevefest.com