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Plenty of monkeyshines at Tacoma’s First Night celebration

L. Lisa Lawrence dances with fiery fans at last year’s First Night celebrations in downtown Tacoma.
L. Lisa Lawrence dances with fiery fans at last year’s First Night celebrations in downtown Tacoma. Courtesy

First Night, downtown Tacoma’s arts-based New Year’s Eve party, will help usher in the Asian Year of the Monkey on Thursday night. The event will include three circus shows, a one-block parade, live bands and a join-in Monkey King chant.

Held every New Year’s Eve for more than two decades, with a couple of years’ break, First Night pulls from a community tradition around the country. The event is family-friendly and alcohol-free, involves the local community, and has free outdoor components as well as indoor events.

This year’s lineup promises plenty of monkey-themed fun, starting with the World’s Shortest Parade, lasting just one block along Broadway to the Pantages Theater and involving anyone who wants to turn up. The only guidelines are to contact organizers beforehand (see below) and try to get in the line by 5 p.m.

Leading the parade will be a giant monkey puppet made by Seattle artist Annett Mateo, who has made the animal puppets for the last six years. This year’s monkey will be a backpack puppet, standing about 10 feet high with feet attached to the wearer’s feet and hands controlled by rods. Mateo modeled the puppet, who looks rather like Curious George, on cartoon monkeys.

As for the three circus shows, the acts will come from around Puget Sound. Lelavision, the Vashon Island duo, will be in Theater Square park from 7-10 p.m. In the Rialto Theater, two Seattle circus companies will perform. Cirrus Circus, a youth troupe from the School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts, will play at 9:10 p.m., while IMPulse, the school’s artist-in-residence company, will perform at 10:05 p.m.

The big outdoor spectacle: This year it will be a Northwest version of the Balinese Monkey King dance, led by performance artist Paradox Pollack, choreographer for films such as “Thor” and “Star Trek.” Starting at 9 p.m., Pollack will lead a group chant, aided by whoever can make it to the chant workshop earlier in the day (1-4 p.m. in the Pantages basement level). After learning the chant and claps, anyone else can join in. (Wear black, white and red to fit into the theme.)

There also will be live bands playing on the main outdoor stage on Broadway, including Orkestar Zirkonium, Sweet Kiss Momma, Oberhofer, then singer Vicci Martinez at 11 p.m.

Other entertainment venues: They include the Pantages, Theatre on the Square, the Pythian Temple, Sanford and Sons library and the outdoor Mountain House Stage on upper Broadway. Bands include Wow Laura, Cloud Person, Pearl Django, Caspar Babypants, The Cloves, The Rusty Cleavers, Pig Snout, the Seattle Rock Orchestra and Ohana Ukelele.

See the museums: A First Night button will get you free admission from noon-5 p.m. at the Museum of Glass, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. to the Tacoma Art Museum and the Children’s Museum; and free skate rental from 10 a.m.-midnight, at the Polar Plaza ice rink at Tollefson Plaza.

Fiery finale: At 11:35 p.m. in Theater Square park you can watch fire performers such as Pyra Sutra and Cathy Marcotte, and see the 2016 numbers go up in flames as the clock ticks over to the new year.

When: The main activities will run from 6 p.m.-midnight Thursday.

Where: Broadway, from Sixth to 11th streets, outdoor and inside theaters and businesses.

Cost: The outdoor events are free. Indoor events require a button purchased for $10 in advance or $14 the day of the event. Buttons are free for ages 10 and younger. Buttons are aailable online and at downtown museums, theaters, Columbia Bank branches and businesses. A complete list is on the website.

Parking: Consider parking near the Tacoma Dome station; the Link light rail will run through 1 a.m.

Information: Schedule and buttons at firstnighttacoma.org. To register for the parade, contact Martha Enson at Martha@en-joyproductions.com.

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