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First Night downtown to be focused on Sophia Street and Riverfront Park

First Night Fredericksburg events will be focused along Sophia Street and the Riverfront Park this year, a move that will keep most downtown streets open on New Year’s Eve.

Organizers have also reduced the price this year. First Night buttons purchased in advance cost $5, half what they did last year. Buttons purchased on New Year’s Eve will cost $8 this year, compared to $15 last year.

The price drop resulted from a decrease in attendance last year and comments from people who took part, said Wendy Stone, the city Parks and Recreation Department’s manager for finance and leisure services.

She said they have noticed that, in general, people are not spending as freely as they did two years ago.

The change to a smaller event footprint should enable better control of access to the activities, Stone said. People are required to wear a First Night button to attend.

Condensing the activities onto Sophia Street will also better accommodate people trying to reach downtown restaurants and should ease traffic and provide easier access to parking, said Karen Hedelt, Fredericksburg’s director of economic development and tourism.

“We think it’s a stronger plan,” she said.

In previous years, Caroline Street was closed starting at the 600 block and some years reaching as far as the Central Rappahannock Regional Library at 1200 Caroline. That also meant corresponding side streets needed to close.

Spreading the events over several blocks left some people feeling they couldn’t take in all of the music and fun, said Tiffany Capehart, the city recreation department’s special events and marketing coordinator.

Events start at 7 p.m. on Dec. 31. Children’s activities will be held in the parking lot of Shiloh Baptist Church (Old Site) at 801 Sophia St., Capehart said.

Youngsters can enjoy face painting, the annual bubble stomp and monster truck rides. At 9 p.m., children will have their own New Year’s celebration including a smaller replica of the New Year’s globe, constructed by the Fredericksburg Machine Shop.

The official countdown to 2014 begins at 11:40 p.m. at Riverfront Park, location of the main stage for the evening. There, people can watch the ceremonial ball drop and see fireworks that will be launched from the opposite side of the Rappahannock River.

Tents with various styles of music will be set up along Sophia Street. Celebrants may venture out from that area to three or four indoor music venues. Those locations include Picker’s Supply at 902 Caroline St., Fredericksburg Masonic Lodge No. 4 at 803 Princess Anne St. and Council Chambers of City Hall, 715 Princess Anne St.

The evening will include a variety of types of music including rock, reggae, blues and country.

“We’ll have music for everybody,” Capehart said.

The evening is sponsored by the city and Pohanka Nissan Hyundai.

Wil cq Gravatt, a local country musician, is arranging the entertainment while Jeremy Bullock is coordinating food vendors and Travis Bullock is organizing the activities, Capehart said.

Details about the events are available online at or on the corresponding Facebook page.

First Night buttons are required for everyone age 3 and older. They are available now online or at a handful of locations in Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County, including those jurisdictions’ respective visitor centers. The event is alcohol-free and family-friendly.

Condensing the First Night activities into a smaller space should make for a safer environment while not interfering with people visiting downtown restaurants and bars, Capehart said.

Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972



Here are the basics for downtown Fredericksburg’s New Year’s Eve event.

WHEN: Dec. 31, 7 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. A children’s New Year’s celebration will be held at 9 p.m. The official countdown begins at 11:40 p.m at Riverfront Park.

WHERE: Sophia Street, Riverfront Park and the 100 blocks of Charlotte, Hanover, and George streets downtown.

ADMISSION: $5 in ad vance; $8 that night. Admis sion buttons are required for everyone age 3 and older to attend indoor and tent events and to ride the trolley. Buttons are available online at: or at the follow ing locations: Fredericksburg Visitor Center, 706 Caroline St.; Gravatt Entertainment, 1700 Caroline St.; Dorothy Hart Community Center, 408 Canal St.; Spotsylvania County Visitor Center, 4704 Southpoint Parkway; Pohanka Nissan Hyundai, 5200 Jefferson Davis High way.

MORE INFO: First Night Hotline at 540/940-2205 or go online to or Fredericksburg’s First Night on Facebook.