Story by Liesel Schmidt
By all accounts, 2020 was…a lot. As a nation, we faced a health crisis unlike anything we’ve experienced in modern society; and it had a fall-out that affected everything, including social gatherings. The entire country went into lock-down, forcing us all apart and wishing for the day when we could all come back together. Fortunately, we’ve begun the recovery process; and as the last seconds of 2020 tick down to the first moments of 2021, we have great hopes that the new year will be one worthy of celebration.
With that in mind, the 26th year of First Night Alexandria is a highly anticipated event, and one that the local community desperately needs. “Music and humor are therapeutic!” says Marilyn Patterson, Executive Director of First Night Alexandria, Inc. “2020 has been quite a year for everyone, and the consensus is that it’s time to hit the reset button. FNA is an opportunity to enjoy an evening of fun favorites to dance to, sing along with, and laugh at in the new year.”
A showcase of the performing and lively arts, FNA is an event that supports culture while providing an alternative to traditional New Year’s Eve celebrations that is family-friendly and affordable. The festive event was established by First Night Alexandria, Inc., a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the appreciation of cultural diversity in the performing arts. A portion of the ticket proceeds supports young musicians studying choral, band and orchestra in Alexandria city middle and high schools; and over the years, FNA has donated over $35K through the generosity of local businesses, residents and visitors who attend the event. “This is such an important way to support the arts, and we are excited to reach an expanding community this year and earn the opportunity to become part of their holiday tradition as we have done for so many in years past,” says Patterson
Unlike years past, however, there will be some noticeable differences. In keeping with the new health mandates surrounding gatherings and the need for social distancing, the celebration will be held at 5001 Eisenhower Avenue in the West End of Alexandria (formerly known as the Victory Center). Themed “A Night of Nostalgia,” this year’s event will also feature a new drive-in destination and a virtual entertainment experience—perfect for all those who want to get in on the fun from the safety of their homes. “We needed a way to produce the celebration in a way that enables families and friends to gather together safely, either virtually or in the socially distanced drive-in venue,” Patterson explains of the changes.
Two shows will premier during the event, first at 6:30 p.m. and then at 9:30 p.m., both on the Big Screen at the drive-in and streamed virtually. Performances include concerts by the Earth Wind & Fire Tribute Band as they cover the hits of the iconic group; vintage rock & roll and rockabilly favorites presented by Rock-A-Sonics; top 40s favorites covered by the high energy dance band JukeBoxx; and rock, pop and R&B hits presented by local star JWX: The Jarreau Williams Experience. Rounding out the night with some laughter, the comedy troupe Clean AF Comedy will perform family-friendly routines that everyone can appreciate.
“Great anticipation surrounding this year’s holiday tradition has already begun, and we expect an overwhelming response to the drive-in and virtual concerts." - Marilyn Patterson
The drive-in concert will be a premium event with a limited capacity as a result of the governor’s orders for outdoor gatherings. Each of the two shows will be restricted to approximately 100 cars, though anyone can log in online to enjoy the streaming experience. In-Person General Admission tickets (per vehicle) are $60 or $75 for VIP tickets; access to the streaming performance costs $20 per link.
Unfortunately, the order of the Governor of Virginia concerning large crowd gatherings and Public Safety will not allow FNA to host a live fireworks display over the Potomac River. In continuing the long-held tradition of the celebration, however, there will be a grand finale fireworks display set to music at the end of the show.
“Despite the changes, we’ve created a spectacular event,” says Patterson. “It’s family-friendly, safe and affordable, with diverse entertainment options that include popular fan-favorite entertainers and comedic acts. This year, we will expand our reach virtually and bring an entertainment experience that no one will want to miss.”
For more information on ticket sales, sponsorship, donation, and volunteer opportunities, visit http://www.firstnightalexandria.org/. Missed the show or want to see it again? Log on January 1 to 31, 2021, to stream FNA on demand on your smart devices.
The First Night Alexandria Board of Directors & everyone at VIP Alexandria Magazine would like to extend a very special thank you to the Presenting Sponsors. Without their generous donations, this annual event would be in jeopardy, especially this year.
City of Alexandria • Dominion Energy • Virginia Paving Company