December 28, 2008 in Features

First Night revelry spreads eastward

Performing Arts Center joins lineup of 51 venues
By The Spokesman-Review
Courtesy Jarom Watts photo

Courtesy Jarom Watts Spokane “bubbillusionist” Jarom Watts will attempt to create the world’s largest soap bubble during First Night festivities.
(Full-size photo)

Bubbles are a fitting New Year’s Eve symbol – champagne and all of that – but they’ll play a particularly key role in this year’s First Night Spokane celebration.

Among the 250 events at First Night this year will be an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for Largest Soap Bubble Ever.

Think: A bubble the size of an elephant.

More on this bubblicious event later. First we should run through some of the more down-to-earth First Night essentials:

•First Night takes place in 51 downtown venues, with the headquarters at River Park Square. This year, the INB Performing Arts Center has been added for the first time, shifting some of the focus eastward. The entire Spokane Convention Center complex will be a beehive of activities, including the Kid’s Night Out events in the afternoon. (You’ll get a map with your button purchase.)

•Kid’s Night Out runs from 3 to 6 p.m., with dozens of children’s activities at the Convention Center. After that, kids and adults alike will line up for the annual Masquerade Parade to River Park Square and the opening fireworks and festivities at 6:30 p.m. This year’s Masquerade Parade should be particularly entertaining because the costume/mask theme will be: marmots.

Let’s just call it the Running of the Marmots.

• The Ski and Snowboard Rail Jam has been moved to the Lilac Bowl of Riverfront Park, where it can spread out with more music and other activities. This will be the most teen-centric of the First Night events, filling the void left by the demise of the 11th Hour music festival.

•Free parking will once again be available at the Spokane Arena’s east parking lot. A free shuttle will run every 10 minutes from 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. This shuttle also runs a circle route through downtown, so you can catch it to get from, say, the INB Performing Arts Center on the east side to the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox on the west side.

• Variety is the key to First Night’s success: You can catch a juggling act, a pottery demonstration, a classical duo, a blues band and a “footbag” (i.e., hacky sack) demonstration by champion footbagger Peter Irish.

However, some venues will have distinct themes. The Fox will be the classical music headquarters with the Spokane Symphony and the Bottom Line Duo. The INB Performing Arts Center will be Celtic central for the first three hours, with the Celtic Knots, the Haran Irish Dancers and An Dochas.

• The unofficial theme of this year’s event is “New Year’s Eve Dance Party,” with six simultaneous dance parties: Tuxedo Junction (Big Band) at the Doubletree Hotel ballroom; 6 Foot Swing (swing) at the Masonic Center’s Commandery Room; Generations (jazzy rock) at the Masonic Center Auditorium; a street dance with recorded music in front of River Park Square on Main Avenue; a salsa dance party with recorded music (and dance instruction) at the Masonic Center Ballroom; and the Masquerade Disco Ball at the Spokane Convention Center’s Ballroom West.

For that last one, you must wear a costume or a mask; masks will be available at the door.

And you get all of this for the price of a $12 button. Children 10 and younger are admitted free when accompanied by a button-wearing adult.

Now, about that Largest Soap Bubble feat: It will be attempted by Spokane “bubbillusionist” Jarom Watts at around 8:15 p.m. on Main Avenue outside of River Park Square (it might have to be moved inside, depending on weather).

The current Guinness record is 105 cubic feet, or roughly the size of a car. Watts is confident he can make a bubble twice as large or even eight times as large – big enough to stick an elephant inside.

He does it using two 10-foot-poles strung with cotton string to make a giant triangle. He dips that into a 3-foot bucket of bubble solution, brings the poles above his head, and … well, you’ll just have to see for yourself.

Watts will also be doing his regular bubbillusionist act at 7 and 9 p.m. at the Convention Center.

And if this isn’t enough bubble fun for you, you can check out the Convention Center’s Bubble Wrap Room, which is, yes, a room filled with bubble wrap.

This has proven to be a popular spot for kids (and even adults) to snap-crackle-pop their way through New Year’s Eve.

Jim Kershner can be reached at (509) 459-5493 or by e-mail at

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