Get a jump on 2014 at First Night Riverbend

News-DemocratDecember 26, 2013 

A funny thing happened when First Night Riverbend started offering an early fireworks show for families with young children, in addition to the one at midnight.

Crowds dwindled after the 9 p.m. shows.

So for the first time in 19 years, organizers are moving the Godfrey event to late afternoon and early evening. All activities will take place in the newly renovated Hatheway Cultural Center at Lewis and Clark Community College.

"Were going to try the new hours and see if it generates a little more interest," said John Nell, steering committee head. "We'll see what happens."

Nell also is assistant director of insurance at Lewis and Clark, where First Night Riverbend has been held since 1995. It was created as an alcohol-free, family-oriented alternative to traditional New Year's Eve parties, with music, art, dance and other entertainment.

Festivities generally went from 6:30 or 7 p.m. to midnight. This year's hours are 3 to 7 p.m. Tuesday.

"It's a big change," Nell said. "But it's something First Night in Springfield already is doing."

Edwardsville's New Year's Eve party also wraps up before midnight. Glen Ed Last Night will take place from 6 to 10 p.m. Tuesday at the YMCA Meyer Center.

The 11th annual event will include roller-skating, rock-climbing, games, music, balloon art and magic by Jess Gernigin.

"What started as a small idea for some fun on New Year's Eve has blossomed into a community tradition that helps support local charities," said chairman Rick Marteeny.

Marteeny is a board member for Metro East Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which is co-sponsoring Glen Ed Last Night with the Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention.

Tickets cost $5. This year's proceeds will benefit the two sponsors, plus Edwardsville Peer Influence Club and Glen Ed Pantry.

"These funds go a long way to support our efforts to positively influence the lives of junior high and high school students," Marteeny said.

First Night Riverbend will feature two big acts on Hatheway's main stage: Master illusionist Keith Jozsef and music by Redhead Express and The Walker Family.

Jozsef is back by popular demand, while Redhead Express is new this year. It's made up of The Walker Family's four daughters, ages 18 to 24. They grew up in Alaska and now live in Nashville, Tenn.

"They're a pretty big, up-and-coming bluegrass group," Nell said, noting the sisters also delve into pop and country. "They're recording their first album right now, and that's with Warner Bros."

Other First Night Riverbend activities will include face-painting, hat-making, caricatures, clowning and balloon art by Miss Molly and Mr. Flakes and stilt-walking and juggling by Casey the Entertainer.

Another change this year is that tickets will cost the same ($10 for adults, free for children 5 and under) whether purchased in advance or at the door.

People also will have access to a warming tent with folding chairs, hot chocolate, coffee and s'mores during fireworks.

Organizers still are looking for volunteers to check buttons and give directions. If interested, call 618-468-7500 and leave a message.

"The nice thing for volunteers is they can enjoy the entertainment for free, they don't have to work hard and they'll get some food," Nell said. "It's a great deal."

At a glance

What: First Night Riverbend

Where: Hatheway Hall at Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey

When: 3 to 7 p.m. Tuesday

Admission: $10 (free for children 5 and under).

Buttons: At the door or in advance at Party Magic and Liberty Bank locations

Information: Visit or call 618-468-7500

At a glance

What: Glen Ed Last Night

Where: Edwardsville YMCA Meyer Center

When: 6 to 10 p.m. Tuesday

Admission: $5

Information: Call Rick Marteeny at 618-977-9570

First Night Riverbend schedule

3 p.m. -- Hatheway Hall Cultural Center opens with face-painting, hat-making, clowns, juggling, caricatures, balloon art and other activities

3:30 to 4:30 p.m. -- Master illusionist Keith Jozsef on the Hatheway stage

5 to 6:45 p.m. -- Bluegrass, pop and country by Redhead Express and The Walker Family on the Hatheway stage

7 p.m. -- Event ends with fireworks

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