A First Night New Year's Eve countdown
You couldn’t ask for a more propitious date to start anew: 1-1-11. As 2010 speeds to a close, we get yet another shot at that annual clean slate. In a study of time and humanity, poet T.S. Eliot wrote in “Little Gidding,” “To make an end is to make a beginning.” Whatever resolutions New Year’s Day brings you, three First Night celebrations around the state guarantee this year will go out with a bang.
Buy a button — it’s your ticket to local music, theater, dancing and fireworks. Both Burlington and Montpelier’s festivities rev up at noon; fun in St. Johnsbury starts at 4 p.m.
The Queen City’s downtown party is a doozy, as usual. Sixteen locations are home to local tunes (Japanese drumming by Burlington Taiko and gypsy jazz by the Queen City Hot Club, for starters), storytelling by reigning “weird stuff” expert Joseph Citro, a big-top bonanza by Circus Smirkus, the annual Drums and Dragons Parade ... you name it. Light shows explode over the lake at 7 p.m. and midnight.
The Capital City cranks into gear with a schedule that festival coordinator Jimmy Swift says is brimming with about 80 percent new programming. Hit the fun at full speed after pounding the pavement in the 16th annual Central Vermont Runners 5K Road Race at 3 p.m. From there, flit among more than a dozen venues for sleights of hand by Rob Mermin’s Soap Bubbles Circus, face painting at the City Center, the yearly Lost Nation Theater Cabaret, and more. Revelers convene at City Hall Plaza for the Parade of Lights and Disco Party at 9 p.m., and festivities wind down after 10 p.m. for those who hear warm beds — or other parties — calling.
In the Northeast Kingdom, St. J’s historic downtown fills with its own share of marvels, including the Hypzotique Bellydance Circus at Fuller Hall, toe-tapping action at the Country Corners Square Dance, a giggle fest brought on by Valley Improv and a 1960s flashback courtesy of Mellow Yellow Experience. Migrate to the St. Johnsbury Academy gym parking lot at midnight for the raising of the New Year’s ball and a full fireworks show.
Whew. As if that wasn’t enough to pack your social calendar, neighboring towns offer their own take on New Year’s — from an Austin Powers-themed bash at Waitsfield’s Big Picture Theater & Café to swingin’ Sinatra tunes at Middlebury’s Town Hall Theater. See below for details.
It’s been real, 2010. Now, in with the new!
Drums and Dragons Parade
Friday, December 31, noon-midnight, at various downtown locations. $5-18 button; most Flynn MainStage and Memorial Auditorium shows require additional $3 tickets; free for kids under 3. Info, 863-6005. www.firstnightburlington.com 
“All you need is right here in this room,” sings Peter Katz in “Carried Away.” Those in attendance of one of his two First Night Burlington concerts may be inclined to agree. Circus stunts and puppet-laden parades rage outside, but the Grand Prize winner of Toronto’s Indie Week offers fierce competition with quiet acoustic sentiments that explore the full spectrum of human emotion. The songs on his latest album, First of the Last to Know, draw inspiration from real-life stories, such as fiddler Oliver Schroer’s battle with leukemia in “Oliver’s Tune,” and “embod[y] Canadian folk,” writes Spill Magazine. The artist collaborated with folk greats Glen Hansard, the Good Lovelies and Melissa McClelland on that record, but he’ll fly solo at the Amy E. Tarrant Gallery and First Congregational Church theater to bid 2010 a sweet adieu.
6-6:40 p.m. at the Amy E. Tarrant Gallery, Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, and 9-9:40 p.m. at the First Congregational Church theater.
If you like this, try: Gregory Douglass, 5-5:40 p.m. at FlynnSpace, and 8-8:40 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church, First Night Burlington.
Parade of Light
Friday, December 31, noon-10 p.m., at various downtown locations. $12-15 button; $40 family pass; free for children 3 and under. Info, 238-6888. www.montpelieralive.org/
Fireworks may be grand, but lanterns are a reveler’s best friend at this year’s First Night Montpelier. The Capital City does away with the pyrotechnics (promising a bigger Fourth of July show instead) in favor of a solid hour of illuminated disco fever. Prep for the Parade of Lights by attending a lantern-making workshop in the afternoon. Then light the way for the Main Street procession, a vision of drummers, dancers, torchbearers and puppets. The open-air Disco Party starts at City Hall Plaza with what has to be the oddest musical pairing ever: Nine-year-old DJ Don P (Montpelier’s Paolo Rovetto) and sculptor Antoinette Jacobson jam out simultaneously, the latter on a handmade fire organ, aka “pyrophone,” which plays in response to flames. No, really. Following hot feats by Kerry Kaye Fire & Light, Montpelierites release roughly 250 glowing, biodegradable hot-air lanterns. With a greeting like that, 2011 is already looking up.
Parade of Lights and Disco Party
Parade begins at 8:45 p.m. at Kellogg-Hubbard Library and proceeds to City Hall Plaza for the Disco Party, 9-10 p.m. Lantern launch, weather permitting, takes place around 9:45 p.m. Lantern-Making Workshop: 4-7 p.m. at City Center.
If you like this, try: Flashing Lights New Year’s Eve Dance, 9 p.m.-midnight at Memorial Auditorium Annex, First Night Burlington. $10 admission or free with First Night Burlington button.
Friday, December 31, 4 p.m.-midnight, at various downtown locations. $12-17 button; free for children under 5. Info, 748-2600. www.firstnightstj.com/index2.html 
Tick, tock, tick, tock. The clock doesn’t stop, and 2011 is another step closer to 2012, the year rife with doomsday hype. Whether or not you subscribe to that point of view, brushing up on your astronomy this New Year’s Eve couldn’t hurt; you’ll be able to marvel at the stars long after the fireworks have faded, anyway. Four 50-minute planetarium shows at Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium embrace the celestial landscape, especially those constellations visible from our own backyards. Recline on benches to watch a 24-foot domed ceiling become a canvas for “reveling in the beauty of the sky and night,” says presenting astronomer Bobby Farlice-Rubio. While most planetarium shows throughout the country are prerecorded, Fairbanks’ are always performed live, allowing audience interaction and a greater variety in subject matter. Approached with a “lighthearted combination of science and storytelling,” says Farlice-Rubio, Friday’s “Space, Inc.” focuses on trends toward outer-space vacations. Ready to see stars?
5:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. at Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium. Seating capacity is 45 people per show; reserve tickets early. Recommended for ages 5 and up.
Baby, it’s cold outside ... but one First Night St. Johnsbury act brings the heat. When most people think of fire performances, they envision someone juggling three flaming sticks, opines Blake Unger Dvorchik, cofounder of St. J’s Dancing Djinn. Those folks obviously haven’t seen the fire-dancing troupe’s repertoire of blazing tricks with fire poi, hula hoops, contact staffs, flower sticks, double staffs, whips and fire breathing. Formed roughly five years ago by a group of St. Johnsbury Academy alums, Dancing Djinn take their name from an Arabic legend of genies made of smokeless flame. The djinns would occasionally take human shape to wow people with fire stunts on crowded streets. Four fire wielders do the same in a series of 25-minute Main Street sessions featuring call-and-response interactivity and short stories that are sure to catch on like, well, wildfire.
6:45 p.m., 7:45 p.m., 8:45 p.m. at the corner of Main Street and Eastern Avenue, and prior to the midnight fireworks at the St. Johnsbury Academy gym parking lot.
If you like this, try: Kerry Kaye Fire & Light, 9-10 p.m. at Parade of Lights and Disco Party, City Hall Plaza, First Night Montpelier.
Austin Powers’ “Divas & Dandies” New Year’s Eve Disco Dance Party: Friday, December 31, 9 p.m., at Big Picture Theater & Café in Waitsfield. $10-20; $50 per family of four. Info, 496-8994. www.bigpicturetheater.info 
Family New Year’s Eve Celebration: Friday, December 31, 5-9 p.m., at Okemo Mountain Resort in Ludlow. $23-39 activity wristband; free for kids under 2. Info, 228-1600. www.okemo.com 
New Year’s Eve Fireworks and Torchlight Parade: Friday, December 31, 6:30 p.m., Lincoln Peak. Info, 583-6300. www.sugarbush.com 
New Year’s Eve at Burke Mountain: Friday, December 31, 4 p.m.-1 a.m., at Sherburne Base Lodge, Burke Mountain, in East Burke. $40 includes dinner and dance; $15 for dance only. Info, 626-7390. www.skiburke.com 
New Year’s Eve Ball: Friday, December 31, 6:30 p.m., at Sheraton Hotel & Conference Center in South Burlington. $32.50-53.25. Info, 598-6757. www.firststepdance.com 
New Year’s Eve Contra Dance: Friday, December 31, 8 p.m., at Tracy Hall in Norwich. $15; half price for folks 10-16 and over 60; bring finger food to share. Info, 785-4607.
New Year’s Eve Dinner: Friday, December 31, 6 p.m.-midnight, at Timbers Restaurant in Warren. $25-75 plus tax and tip. Info, 583-6800. www.sugarbush.com 
“A New Year’s Eve to Remember”: Friday, December 31, 8 p.m., at Town Hall Theater in Middlebury. $25. Info, 382-9222. www.townhalltheater.org