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Make the last night of 2013 count

The fireworks display that closes out First Night and rings in the new year is always a key attraction. (File)
The fireworks display that closes out First Night and rings in the new year is always a key attraction. (File)

The theme for this year’s First Night Spokane is “Once Upon a Night: Art Comes Alive,” and that seems as appropriate a name as any: Every year since its inception in 2001, First Night practically transforms downtown Spokane, bringing it to life from the last evening of December to the first morning of January.

Music, dancing, arts and crafts and a fireworks display to ring in the New Year – there’s a whole lot to do. Although we’re merely scratching the surface (after all, there are at least 150 individual performances and exhibits to take in), here are some events you should be sure to check out at this year’s festivities.

48 Hour Film Festival: It’s more challenging than you might think: Local filmmakers are given a list of criteria – a line of dialogue, for instance, or a specific prop or location – that they must incorporate into a short film running 3 to 5 minutes. Oh, and they only have 48 hours to write, shoot and edit their work. The completed shorts were judged and the eight with the highest scores will be shown to the public on First Night. Viewers will have the chance to vote for their favorite film, and awards for both the Judge’s and People’s Choice for best films will be handed out. The shorts will be presented every hour beginning at 7 p.m. at the City Hall Council Chambers, 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.

• Singing in the New Year : Here’s a new addition to the First Night schedule: a singing competition showcasing the best unknown performers Spokane has to offer. Earlier in the month, participating finalists were whittled down to a group of just eight competitors, who will sing (with prerecorded musical accompaniment) for a select group of judges in an informal “American Idol”-style show. But it’s not just about who has the best pipes: Finalists will also be judged on their stage presence, their appearance and how well they engage and interact with the audience. And to really raise the stakes, the winner receives a $1,000 grand prize. The performances begin at 7 p.m. at the Imax Theatre in Riverfront Park, 507 N. Howard St.

Spokane Civic Theater: The Civic’s production of “The Three Musketeers” won’t premiere for another few months, but it’s not too early to get a glimpse at some behind-the-scenes details. Learn what goes into putting a show together as various Civic actors present the choreography of a fight sequence from their upcoming swashbuckler. Begins at 7 p.m. at Wheatland Bank, 222 N. Wall St.

Dance, dance, dance: Learn the ABCs of Latin dancing from instructor Jim Renn, and then test your newfound skills during a live performance of Spokane salsa band Son Dulce. Lessons begin at 7 p.m. in the Bank of America lobby, 601 W. Riverside Ave., and Son Dulce will follow at 8 p.m. And if your feet just won’t keep still, head up to the second floor of the STA Plaza, 701 W. Riverside Ave., and groove to the sounds of nine-piece R&B collective Soul Proprietor, or the dance party hosted by DJ Jeff Keene at the Riverfront Park stage.

Convention Center: At some point during your First Night experience, be sure to make your way over to the Convention Center, 334 W. Spokane Falls Blvd. There’s a lot under one roof: Performances from actors with the Blue Door Theater, belly dancers and magic, and even a variety show featuring comedian Alex Zerbe and trick roper and juggler Leapin’ Louie.

For the kids : If you’ve got the little ones in tow, not to worry, because First Night is jam-packed with kid-friendly events. Wander down Spokane Falls Boulevard and you can enjoy s’mores by the bonfires. Or check out “Through Our Eyes,” an exhibit at the Downtown Library, 906 W. Main Ave., featuring artwork from children with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Spokane County. Or, if your kids are on the curious side, take them to the Extreme Science Show, which promises to be both educational and entertaining, at the Mobius Science Center, 811 W. Main Ave.

And, as an added bonus, carousel rides and ice skating in Riverfront Park are free – though skate rental is extra – with a First Night button from 7 to 11 p.m. You certainly don’t have to be a kid to appreciate that.

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