Fireworks illuminate the Allegheny River over the party on the Roberto Clemente Bridge as Pittsburgh enters the 21st century.

Cultural District Downtown

December 31
6 p.m. – midnight

If one of your resolutions is to make more time for art, then we suggest you kick off 2015 at Highmark First Night Pittsburgh, set to animate Downtown on Wednesday, December 31st.

Recently unveiled are new venues, new attractions and a new look all on tap for First Night this year. Hop on the bus or T before or after making the rounds—or make an entire night of it—from 6 p.m. to midnight. The region’s largest single-day celebration showcases the magic of the holiday season via an arts-focused, alcohol-free and family-friendly New Year’s Eve celebration activating all corners of Pittsburgh’s Cultural District. The 21st annual edition boasts some 150 events at 50 indoor and outdoor locations within a 14-block area, making it the Burgh’s biggest New Year’s Eve bash.

Hotspots will be concerts on the Dollar Bank Stage and a national headlining act ringing in the New Year on the Highmark Stage. The signature countdown to midnight will feature the raising of the 1,000-pound Future of Pittsburgh ball 150 feet in the air above Penn Avenue Place, and the glorious glow of the Zambelli Fireworks finale display.

Legendary singer, songwriter and entrepreneur Smokey Robinson will serve as the judge for First Night’s annual Sing-Off competition. Chosen by Robinson, the lucky young winner will perform live as an opening act during First Night 2015, and will receive cash prizes. Area students in grades 6 through 12 are eligible to enter now through Friday, December 12th.

Featured headliners are the Arista Nashville recording duo, The Swon Brothers (aka Zach and Colton), who are fresh on the heels of releasing their new single, “Pray For You.” Nominated as “Vocal Duo of the Year” at the 48th Annual CMA Awards, The Swon Brothers’ debut single, “Later On,” shot to No. 1 on iTunes’ Country Top Songs chart within 24 hours of its release. Hailing from Oklahoma, the young duo first gained national attention as finalists during Season 4 of NBC’s The Voice.

Sure to shake up the night with their sound will be additional musical entertainment by the Pittsburgh-based brass and electronic music ensemble Beauty Slap. Boasting five horns, a guitar and a DJ, the local ensemble has been making waves within the local music scene.

New First Night attractions not to miss include special performances by Cello Fury, Texture Contemporary Ballet, Lee Terbosic Magic, one-man variety show Chris Ruggierro, Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company, FJ Hartland’s Postcards from a Dead Dog, Arcade Comedy Theater, Player One, Aaron Kleiber and T-Robe. And if dance is your thing, check out the night’s Roland Ford line dancing, belly dancing by Cattywhomp Tribal, Indian Dance with Aparna Nigam and even Japanese sword dancing.

Additional highlights include the vibrant FedEx Ground Parade, a cherished First Night tradition featuring dazzling larger-than-life puppets created by Pittsburgh-based artist Cheryl Capezzuti. Based on this year’s theme of “Imagination: Delivered,” Capezzuti and her talented crew have been busy working hard with community members to create clever humorous puppets which will pop out of giant envelopes and dance throughout Downtown.

What’s that sound you hear? Pop into the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s galleries to experience the premiere of Toby Atticus Fraley’s The Lost Search Sound Machine in Pittsburgh, which invites visitors to discover, listen to and play old and forgotten sounds.

Those who don’t like the chill will be happy to learn that 90% of all First Night events are held indoors.

For all the fun, purchase a 2015 Highmark First Night Pittsburgh button.

Jennifer BaronArts & Entertainment / Jobs Editor

Jennifer has worked at the Mattress Factory, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Dahesh Museum of Art and is co-author of Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania. She also is co-coordinator of Handmade Arcade. Musically, she is in a band called The Garment District and is a founding member of Brooklyn's The Ladybug Transistor.