Akron's First Night had been a mainstay for New Year's Eve festivities for some 22 years, but this year revelers will have to find a new way to ring out the old year and start anew.
The end of the rite of the holiday season doesn't mean Akronites have to sit around the house moping and noshing on sauerkraut balls. There are still plenty of things to do and see on the last day of 2018.
Organizers of First Night have turned to the Akron Zoo to pick up the ball (to be later dropped at an appointed time) to offer an affordable, safe and family-friendly place to celebrate the arrival of 2019.
Zoo Year's Eve will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with special activities from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
In addition to all the party animals on hand, the new event will offer crafts, live music, a resolution wall and animal encounters. And when the clock strikes noon, the zoo plans to drop a ball "zoo style" to mark the new year.
The ball is actually an old so-called Boomer Ball that the zoo's big cats like the snow leopards and jaguars once batted around and played with.
Zoo workers have constructed a contraption that will allow the ball — that has been retired because it was so well loved by the big cats — to slowly descend over the span of a minute so kids can countdown the (early) New Year's Eve.
"They [the manufacturer] say these balls are supposed to be indestructible," said zoo spokesperson Elena Bell with a laugh. "The joke's on them. They never met a jaguar."
The zoo also plans to serve up special appetizers and offer adult and kid-friendly beverages for purchase.
Tickets are $7 and are available for advance purchase at akronzoo.org or at the zoo box office.
New New Year's party
Those looking for a more adult outing can ring in 2019 at a new event at the Akron Civic Theatre.
The historic venue will play host to the NYE Rainbow Ball starting at 7:30 p.m. Monday being billed as the most "glittering, colorful, inclusive" party ever.
The event will benefit the Akron Pride Festival. Tickets for the 21 and over event are $100 in advance, $125 at the door.
There will be food provided by Moe’s Restaurant, an open bar, a DJ dance party and queen appearances by Cherry Veneer and 2018 Miss Akron Pride Festival Alejandra J-Love.
For more, visit akroncivic.com.
Bollinger... Champagne Bollinger
If you are into an evening of bubbles and Bond, why not? British super spy James Bond's love for $79.99 Bollinger Champagne never dies.
For the past 13 Bond movies, whether it be Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan or Daniel Craig, Bond has been drinking "The Living Daylights" out of the French luxury champagne. Why not have a evening of Bond movies and a bottle of his favorite bubbles to ring in the new year? If you are on a super spy budget, pick up the $124.99 La Grande Annee.
Buy this wine at Regency Wine Sellers & Wine Bar, Papa Joe's, Acme Hudson, Giant Eagle Stow (Norton Road), all Heinens, and both 750ml locations. Check out more recommendations for bubbly in today's Phil Your Glass column.
Other events and activities for New Year's week include:
"American Girl" adventure
The message of "American Girl Live!" is that every girl is the hero of her own story! The new musical with all original songs will play at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Akron Civic Theatre, 182 S. Main St. The show tells tales of bravery and friendship among girls at summer sleepover camp, where America Girl characters lend a hand through story and song. The production is led by an all-female creative team, including director Gina Rattan and producer Simone Gianfrancesco. Cost is $28-$128. See www.akroncivic.com or call 330-253-2488.
Hammy with Spammy
"Spamilton — An American Parody" is a singing, dancing, comedy "revolution" that spoofs that groundbreaking show that's set the musical theater world on fire — "Hamilton." "Spamilton's" North American tour, now kicking off in Cleveland, continues through Jan. 6 at Playhouse Square's Hanna Theatre, 2067 E. 14th St., Cleveland. The musical parody features a cast of seven portraying Lin-Manuel Miranda, Daveed Diggs, Aaron Burr and others. Created by Gerard Alessandrini, the mastermind behind all 25 editions of "Forbidden Broadway,'' the show has previously played in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and London. Cost is $39-$59. No performances New Year's Eve or New Year's Day. See www.playhousesquare.org or call 216-241-6000.
"Black Nativity," Langston Hughes' famed retelling of the Nativity story, is performed in gospel style at Karamu House, 2355 E. 89th St., Cleveland. Final performances for the show, directed and choreographed by Reggie Kelly, are 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. Cost is $40, or $35 for seniors and $20 for students. Call 216-795-7077 or see karamuhouse.org.
The touring West End hit show "Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience,'' a spoof of all seven of J.K. Rowling's boy wizard fantasy books, continues through Jan. 16 at Crocker Park, 239 Market St., Westlake. The two-man show runs through all seven "Harry Potter'' books and does nearly 300 costume changes in 70 minutes in this comedic theatrical piece. Cost is $39.99-$99.99. See www.ticketmaster.com.
The regional premiere of the musical, based on the 1997 Newbery Honor novel by Gail Carson Levine, continues through Sunday at Dobama Theatre, 2340 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights. Shows are 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2:30 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Cost is $37-$40 or $20-$25 for students. See www.dobama.org or call 216-932-3396.
The monstrously quirky musical "Shrek" continues through Jan. 6 at Beck Center for the Arts, 17801 Detroit Ave., Lakewood. All the favorite movie characters come to life, including the ogre title character, Princess Fiona, Farquaad, Donkey and that girly Dragon. Remaining performances run Thursday-Sunday and Jan. 4-6. No performances New Year's Eve or New Year's Day. Cost is $30-$33. Call 216-521-2540, ext. 10, or see www.beckcenter.org.
Andy Warhol's "Endangered Species," on display through March 10, is a chance to see a complete set of his work at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, 1 Wade Oval Drive, Cleveland. The set of 10 silkscreen masterpieces, created and donated to the museum in 1983, is one of only 15 complete sets. The rare collection captures some of nature’s most iconic endangered species in the acclaimed pop artist’s bold, instantly recognizable style. $14-$17. Closed New Year's Day. See www.cmnh.org or call 216-231-4600.
Northside New Year’s Eve Party
The still newish Northside marketplace wants you to come and enjoy a bevy of local craft beers, wine and Champagne along with food and dessert stations manned by local vendors. There will be music and Times Square on the big TVs in the social lounge. $50-$150, 8 p.m.–1 a.m. Northside Marketplace, 21 Furnace St. in Akron.
New Year’s Eve at Pickwick & Frolic
The Cleveland restaurant and club Pickwick & Frolic always has a big year-end shindig and the 2018 edition will include a multicourse dinner and show, live music from Nitebridge, an 11:59 p.m. Champagne toast, several light food stations, a balloon drop and the “Raise Your Glass: The NYE Cabaret” show. $60, Pickwick & Frolic Restaurant, 2035 E. Fourth St. in Cleveland.
Noon Year’s Eve
Got kiddies you can’t ditch for an evening of New Year’s revelry? Perhaps you just want to have some non-late-night NYE fun. Head up to the Cleveland MetroParks Zoo for its Noon Year’s Eve featuring crafts, dancing, music and a bunch of animals that don’t use calendars. There is also a VIP version including brunch, a meet and greet with the zoo’s various characters and more activities. Free with zoo admission or VIP $25, clevelandmetroparks.com, 216-661-6500
Shaggy 2 Dope
Want to Juggalo in the new year? The Foundry in Lakewood is ready for your midnight, face-painted, New Year’s Eve Faygo toast with a solo appearance by Insane Clown Posse rapper Shaggy 2 Dope who is on his F.T.F.O.M.F. tour with ICP related emcee Ouija Macc. $20, The Foundry, 11729 Detroit Ave., Lakewood, foundryconcertclub.com.