PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Tens of thousands of party-goers are expected to welcome in the New Year Thursday night in downtown Pittsburgh with the annual First Night celebration.

With relatively mild weather predicted, crowds may be larger than in previous years.

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A Public Safety Department spokesperson told KDKA-TV, “We have enough resources available to ensure the safety of people and property.”

Security will include uniform and plainclothes police, K-9 officers, school crossing guards and members of both the Pittsburgh Bomb Squad and SWAT officers.

Organizer Janis Burley Wilson, of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, said, “We’ll have police officers you can see during the gala, and others will be monitoring the situation. With all things happening [around the world], we’re taking even greater precautions.”

As city officials were beefing up security around downtown, First Night organizers were busy setting up for the festivities.

A stage building crew was busy Wednesday at the corner of 8th Street and Penn Avenue. The same location in the Cultural District will be even busier on New Year’s Eve night.

Performers with Steeltown Fire will share the stage with Olympic ice carver Rich Bubin, although not at the same time. They don’t want to melt the ice. So they’ll each take turns as the parking lot becomes known, for one night, as “Fire and Ice Plaza.”

Jen Owen keeps tabs on the staging, and the show.

“We have fire dancing and twirling and eating and all sorts of excitement about the fire,” the project manager says. “And then, we also have ice carving happening on site. He does everything from shooting ice, to carving it into different forms throughout the night. He’ll have lots of takeaways and fun things to look at.”

Fire and Ice is one of dozens of events, all taking place in the city at the same time.

So, what about parking? Jen Owen says there’s an app for that.

“There’s a great app called ‘ParkPGH‘ where you can find real-time information about what spots are available in garages throughout the Cultural District. We do take a few lots out of commission so that we can put things like Fire and Ice Plaza here in them, but there’s still plenty of parking available,” she says. “There’s a lot of holiday rates and special event rates available, everywhere from the Theater Square parking in the Cultural District, all the way up to the Greyhound station.”

Getting a quick parking spot leaves you plenty of time to see the shows. And, of course, you may want to stick around for the fireworks.

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Meanwhile, at 7th Street and Penn, a crew was putting up towering lights that will brighten the Cultural District. The lights will actually swing around, and be reflected off local buildings. They will come in many colors. Sponsored by PPG Paints, they have a lot of colors to choose from.

Across the street, more workers installed lights for the Family Tent. Program manager DeVonne Goode says it will be a busy tent on New Year’s Eve.

“We have a lot of crafts; a lot of hands-on craft-making that a lot of our teaching artists from around the city have come and provided art organizations,” he said.

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Young puppeteers in the Doggy Dancing team practiced their moves for the First Night Puppet Parade. Project manager Ellie Voyvodich says they’ll lead the procession.

“A convertible will be leading the parade with a sound system playing ‘Happy Now,’ and the ‘doggies’ will be dancing behind them,” she said. “Here we have three of the 12 doggies who will be dancing and leading the parade for the first time. The parade will also feature 15-foot puppets.”

The First Night musical highlight is The Wailers, a reggae band that dates back to the late, great Bob Marley. And the Benedum Center will host a “sing-off” competition and the River City Brass Band.

“Ninety percent of the events this year are indoors,” the Goode adds. “So for those of you who enjoy the visual arts indoors, we have a lot of our galleries open, like 709 Gallery. Also, the August Wilson Center will be open as well, a large venue for families to get warm, get some hot chocolate, and enjoy some indoor activities.”

Burley Wilson joined the “KDKA Morning News” on Thursday to talk about First Night.

“We have a huge party happening Downtown in the Cultural District, Highmark’s First Night Pittsburgh, and we consider this to be our big open house for the community,” Wilson said.



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