Our Voice: First Night -- A community event worth celebrating

First Night has been a Tri-City tradition for 15 years. If you already are planning to go, make note of this year's new location. If you still are wondering what to do on New Year's Eve, consider giving First Night a try.

It's warm. It's fun. It's safe.

There is a kids event if you have little ones. And there is a variety of more than 20 entertainers for the "bigger kids."

We are one of 45 First Night locations around the country. There are three sites in Washington.

In 2000, more than 260 cities held a First Night celebration. When the economy got tougher, many cities scaled back their events or canceled them.

We have to feel grateful that we've been able to hold on to ours. We also should be supportive of each year's effort so we can continue to have this option in our community.

First Nights around the country celebrate the last night of the year with dancing, singing and fireworks. It is a giant talent show that runs all evening.

The great thing about our event is that it mostly celebrates our talent.

Although the Gothard Sisters are not from here, they may as well be. They have been regular performers at our First Night for so long that many of us feel like we have seen them grow up right before our eyes.

Same for hypnotist Jerry Harris. He lives in Graham, but comes here often enough that you might run into him at the grocery store. At least, some of us have.

Some of the other truly local attractions include performances by groups from Kamiakin, Kennewick, Southridge, Richland and Hanford high schools.

Miss Tri-Cities Janae Calaway and Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen Reagan Rebstock will be performing.

One name that has held the community's interest for six months is Cassidy Almquist. If you don't recognize her name as a vocalist, you surely have seen community fundraisers on her behalf since she was seriously injured in a fall from a rope swing at a church camp early this year.

She has become well-known in the Mid-Columbia for her positive attitude and determination. Her voice is one more beautiful gift that she is willing to share with the community.

For Cassidy -- and all of us -- the end of the year is the start of a new beginning. We're eager to see what 2014 will bring.

First Night Tri-Cities originally rotated between Richland, Pasco and Kennewick -- each city taking a turn at playing host. For several years it found a home at Columbia Basin College. This year it will be at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick near the Toyota Center.

Parking is free. Admission is $12 for adults and $5 for kids. Activities start at 4:30 p.m. and end with fireworks at midnight.