Missoula "First Night" Event Marks 20th Anniversary - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Missoula "First Night" Event Marks 20th Anniversary

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MISSOULA -

A New Year's Eve celebration of art and culture has reached its 20th anniversary in Missoula.

Organizers said "First Night" has grown from a small downtown event to a city-wide affair with more than 90 performances and activities.

First Night was actually started 36 years ago in Boston by local artists trying to create a meaningful New Year's celebration of art and culture.

In Missoula, a UM grad student brought the event to life in 1993.

"Well, I'm almost 22, so the fact that this thing's been around since, basically I've been alive, is pretty awesome," said Kevin Wooley, a Missoula College Culinary Arts student.

Wooley was one of the students tasked with carving 7.5-foot tall ice blocks into a grizzly bear and cub on the Missoula County Courthouse lawn.

"Just setting up and doing this, I think it's really fun and I'm enjoying myself," he said.

And ice sculpting is far from the only First Night activity.

The event includes art classes, dance performances, movies, concerts and dozens of other activities through midnight.

Tom Bensen, the Executive Director of the Missoula Cultural Council, said, "It's really kind of like a barn raising, and barn raising is successful when everybody pitches in."

Executive Director of the Missoula Cultural Council, Tom Bensen, said the celebration has expanded from downtown to include UM, Southgate Mall and Glacier Ice Rink.   

But, the goal of the night remains the same.

"It's about community, celebrating, New Year's Eve, and art," Bensen said.

Wooley added, "I love that Missoula's such an artistic town that allows us to be open and free with our artistic ability and able to show that off."

Click here for a complete list of First Night activities.

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