PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — People all over the world are ringing in 2016.

That includes people right here in the Steel City where the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust hosted its annual First Night celebration that brings thousands downtown for the holiday.

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The celebration started off with fireworks, and ended that way, too, with a big grand finale.

“We expect to have 30,000 to 40,000 people who will come downtown to celebrate New Year’s with us,” said Janis Burley-Wilson, of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

You know how the old saying goes, “Ain’t no party like a Pittsburgh party,” and for 22 years, the Highmark First Night Pittsburgh New Year’s Eve celebration has been a first-class act.

“We have dance, theater, music,” said Burley-Wilson. “Our headlining act is the ‘Wailers,’ Bob Marley’s Wailers’ band.”

KDKA’s Brenda Waters caught up with the Wailers during their sound check on stage at Stanwix and Penn Avenues on Thursday afternoon.



All the First Night fun happened within a 14-block radius.

“It’s all in the Cultural District. So, wherever you start – all the way at one side of Penn Avenue near the Convention Center or all the way down here near Stanwix Street – you’ll find everything,” said Burley-Wilson. “There’s a lot of activities that are indoors, a lot of activities that are inside of Fifth Avenue Place, we also have activities inside the August Wilson Center, and then we have the First National Bank Family Tent, so you can go inside and get warm.”

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There was a parade with amazing puppets that were even taller this year than in the past, standing at 15 feet. There was also Fire & Ice Plaza about halfway down Penn Avenue.

High school students Addison Albert and Colin Aikens won the Sing-Off competition. Their video was chosen by Smokey Robinson and they performed at the Benedum Center.

“My mom sent the video in without us knowing,” said Albert. “Then she was like, by the way, you won this contest.”

In the Family Tent, there were plenty of ways to get crafty. One young boy was making a hat that said “Happy New Year!” His dad says they love coming to First Night.

“Seeing so many people in one place and having real fun! I really like the parade,” Jai Donakanda, of Green Tree, said.

And in case you missed the first fireworks display at 6 p.m. for the kids, there was another display at the end of the night after counting down into the New Year.

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As for that countdown, the Future of Pittsburgh Ball rose to the top of the old Horne’s building, because Pittsburgh is a city on the rise, so the ball here never drops.

And with that many people enjoying the festivities, security was a must.

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“We have been working closely with the Pittsburgh Police Department and other organizations to make sure that we have a safe, healthy and happy New Year’s in downtown Pittsburgh,” said Burley-Wilson.