It’s not First Night, but Tacoma will have a free, all-ages New Year’s celebration this year

Tacoma native Leah Justine will perform at ReLive NYE at Tollefson Plaza in Tacoma on Dec. 31, 2018.
Tacoma native Leah Justine will perform at ReLive NYE at Tollefson Plaza in Tacoma on Dec. 31, 2018. courtesy

The void left by this year’s First Night cancellation has been filled — at least partially.

The city of Tacoma announced Wednesday that a New Year’s Eve celebration will fill Tollefson Plaza and two blocks of Pacific Avenue between 15th and 17th Streets with music, food trucks and a beer garden.

The space can hold up to 10,000 people, said Kala Dralle, the city’s events coordinator.

“That’s not what we’re expecting,” she said. “That’s how many people go to First Night.”

Planning for the substitute event, called ReLive NYE, began when First Night’s cancellation was covered by the news media just before Thanksgiving.

First Night’s organizers, a nonprofit separate from the city, said they didn’t have enough money to put on the show the city deserves. They are planning to return the event to Tacoma in 2019.

A little cold and rain didn't hold back revelers for Tacoma's annual celebration of the new year with performing arts and activities in many downtown venues.

After news of the cancellation broke, Dralle and others in the city heard from a lot of unhappy people.

“There was such a passionate response to finding out that First Night wasn’t happening,” Dralle said. “A number of us involved with First Night came together and said, ‘What should we do?’”

Meanwhile, Tollefson Plaza was going into its second year as an unused space after several years as Polar Plaza — the site of the annual ice skating rink. That rink moved to Point Ruston in 2017.

The $45,000 the city is contributing to the substitute event comes from Polar Plaza funding and this year’s unused funds earmarked for First Night, Dralle said.

The city has hired local entertainer and producer Kim Archer to put on a free, all-ages show that will run from 6 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Foster’s Creative is co-producing the event.

Archer said on Tuesday that she’s planning a show that will please as many people as possible.

“I try my best to represent all parts of our city and the genres of music that people enjoy,” she said.

The stage will be set up on Pacific Avenue and face the plaza.

Headlining ReLive is Seattle soul, funk and R&B singer Tiffany Wilson.

“Her voice moves your soul,” Archer said. “You are not the same after seeing one of her shows.”

The event will be emceed by Tacoma entertainer Quincy “Q Dot” Henry.

Other acts include prog rockers Bes, country singer Leah Justine, “The Voice” contestant Cody Ray Raymond and Seattle-based soul, funk and hip hop band Holy Pistola.

Unlike First Night, this year’s event will not be dry.

“If you want to have alcohol, you can be in the beer garden,” Archer said. “You can do that and still see the stage.”

The beer garden can easily be avoided by families and others who don’t want to be near it, she said.

Another event happening on Dec. 31 is “Thank U, Next: A New Year’s Eve Celebration” at the Grand Cinema.

That all-ages event runs 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. and features gaming, karaoke, short films, a photo booth, no-host bar and more. General admission is $15, $5 for members and $5 for 12 and under.

Craig Sailor has worked for The News Tribune for 20 years as a reporter, editor and photographer. He previously worked at The Olympian and at other newspapers in Nevada and California.