The great American sage Barry Manilow once lamented, "It's just another New Year's Eve, another night like all the rest." With all due respect, we respond: Barry, you trippin'? New Year's Eve is not like all other nights, and we have the checkered past to prove it. In 2001, we enjoyed too much rum punch at a luau-themed bash and insisted on touching everyone's pants. In 1999, we danced to Prince (of course) at a swanky Dallas hotel. And in 2003, we ate an entire cheeseball and fell asleep before ten. This year, our New Year's Eve plans put a premium on both sobriety and fun.
First, we're cruising to the east side for the twelfth annual First Night River Bend celebration. This alcohol-free, family-friendly party takes place on the campus of Lewis & Clark Community College (5800 Godfrey Road, Godfrey, Illinois; 618-468-7500 or www.fnrblc.com). From 7 p.m. until midnight, celebrants can see magic shows, receive a Fantasy Faces airbrush tattoo, dance to the music of the RhythmAires band and much more. Tickets for the party, which ends with a fabulous fireworks show at midnight, are $10 if purchased in advance (call MetroTix at 314-534-1111 or visit www.metrotix.com) or $12 if purchased at the event. Children five and younger are admitted for free.
After we rock the River Bend area, it's back to St. Louis for the fourteenth annual First Night Saint Louis. The theme for this year's bash in Grand Center (North Grand and Lindell boulevards; 314-533-1884 or www.firstnightstl.org) is "Red, Hot Camelot," and a "Royal Procession" parade gets the party started at 5:30 p.m. Hear music from a number of acts (including our favorite St. Louis diva, Kim Massie), marvel at the feats of the Zany Umbrella Circus, and get the giggles with Ed Reggi and his Paper Slip Theatre improv-comedy troupe among many, many other activities. This booze-free night of fun costs $8 for adults and $4 for children ages six to twelve; admission is free for kids five and younger. Purchase admission buttons at the event or through MetroTix (314-534-1111 or www.metrotix.com). The party lasts till just after midnight, when the last fireworks fade from the sky (there's also a 9 p.m. pyrotechnics show).
Sun., Dec. 31