First Night Winchester to show off new acts

WINCHESTER – At a news conference for First Night Winchester on Thursday, board members announced plans for the 2016 event, the 29th consecutive year for the non-alcoholic family celebration of the arts into Jan. 1.

The Village at Orchard Ridge Executive Director Melissa Fortner welcomed those assembled at the Orchard Ridge chapel. She said this year is the first year Orchard Ridge will be partnering with the nonprofit event – hosting a 1 p.m. Reptiles Alive animal show – and that the community shares First Night’s values.

“I love the mission of First Night … it is about bringing friends and families together,” she said.

As First Night Vice Chair David André pointed out, the Winchester event is the fifth oldest in the nation and one of 35 that are still held. This year, he announced that children younger than 10 will still gain admission free of charge and also receive their own special button to fit in with the grown ups.

First Night board member Kevin Sanzenbacher presented the event’s first button pass to Merrill Naylor, who rescued his neighbor from a house fire in Stephens City on Nov. 4.

“I wish I wasn’t here getting this – I wish it didn’t happen,” Naylor said after accepting the button. “I’m glad that she made it and she’s through, and I hope nobody has to go through that.”

Museum of the Shenandoah Valley Deputy Director of Community Relations Julie Armel showed off this year’s “illumination” themed coloring contest, which will offer prizes valued at more than $150 to winners in four different age groups – including adults. First Night buttons will gain attendees admission to the museum’s “Cut! Costume and the Cinema” exhibit.

Kathy Nerangis, director emeritus of the nonprofit, introduced some of the new performances of note that will be featured throughout the day. First Night attendees will be able to catch their choice of more than 55 diverse performances hosted at 15 businesses, churches, museums and other venues around Winchester. A full list can be seen at

For the first time at First Night, Russian-born and internationally acclaimed classical pianist Maria Yefimova will perform at the Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church. Casey Carle, who’s worked as a consultant for Cirque du Soleil, will perform his BubbleMania! show at the Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum. The show is featured in this year’s program art by Tin Top Art & Handmade owners Neil and Kerry Stavely.

Other new acts include Bud’s Collective, Jane Franklin Dance Company, Magical Faces by Myra, magician Rick Reed, DarcyDawn & Co. and Souled Out.

First Night Executive Director Christine Germeyer said the nonprofit’s entertainment committee aims to provide a tableau of acts to please the whole family through an application process that runs all year long.

“You have to factor in the cost, you have to factor in if it’s somebody new, somebody fresh … it’s the most involved part of everything,” she said. “It’s a very calculated process.”

She said the committee has already started planning out acts for Winchester’s 30th First Night next year.

Of course, midnight will herald the anticipated official Apple Drop and fireworks on the corner of Cameron and Boscawen streets to ring in the new year. There won’t be any need to rush out, either – free parking at the four downtown garages will last from 5 p.m. Dec. 31 to 11 a.m. Jan. 1.


• 10 a.m. to midnight Dec. 31 in Winchester, with the Apple Drop occurring at the corner of Cameron and Boscawen streets.

• Button passes are $10 online at, available starting Dec. 21 at the Apple Blossom Mall, Winchester Book Gallery, Bank of Clarke County’s Old Town Center branch or the Winchester-Frederick County Visitor’s Center. For more information, visit

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or

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