Rite of First Night

The Independent lowdown on ringing in a happy, hooch-free New Year

| December 28, 2000

Ah, the drifting ghosts of New Year’s past. A Calendar Kid gets real nostalgic.

Remember all the parties, all the resolutions, all those times we wondered aloud where the next new year would find us? And here I can’t even remember what year any of that stuff happened. So, as we all take a moment of thoughtful reflection to honor the people who have passed in and out of our lives, some in particle form and others in long protein strings of related individuals, the Kid bids you gird friends and family to you with hoops of iron and make this First Night one of good times, hope and goodwill to remember always. Here, then, are some picks for individual events in Missoula’s alcohol-free alternative New Year’s Eve bash.

An afternoon of ethnic flavors might be just right for warm-ups—and the afternoon program at the historic Wilma Theatre will deliver the goods. Tango Nouveau starts things off at 3:30 PM with the lifelong dream of Argentinean composer Astor Piazzolla realized: his native tango imbued with the richness and complexity of a truly modern art form as performed by this quartet featuring Chuck Florence on tenor saxophone. The musical dreamtime odyssey that is Mandir follows at 5:30, succeeded in turn by the white-hot Afro-Cuban bop stylings of the Cocinando Ensemble at 7:30 and the polyrhythmic intricacies of the Drum Brothers at 10.

Whoopsis, is it 10 already? Then you should already have taken in some award-winning favorites from the International Film Festival, screening in the Missoula Public Library from 4 to 8 PM. Or seen Soul Motion from 5 to 6 at First United Methodist Church, with Troupe Mirage capping off that venue’s events from 7 to 9. And zipped down Broadway to check out the ice sculptures from 10 AM to midnight on the courthouse lawn. Or watched the Sentinel High School Jazz Band and the Town and Gown Dixie Band, at 4 and 6:30 PM in the Senior Citizens Center on South Higgins.

The bonnie wees are going to love padding around Caras Park Pavilion on a pony ride from Parson’s Pony Farm, 2 to 5 PM, free carousel rides all day at A Carousel for Missoula, magician Mark King performing at the Masonic Temple at 2 and 3 PM, face painting in the University Center atrium from 2 to 7, and the precision rope-jumping of the Montana Super Skippers, 3:30 to 5:30 in the UM University Center Ballroom. The one-woman traveling Vaudevillian roadshow of Missoula-La breaks out an ambitious amalgam of improvisational dance and balloon sculpture set to the sounds of early twentieth-century jazz; she’s doing double duty today, 2 PM in the lobby of the Missoula Children’s Theatre and 3 PM at the Raven Café. Also for the little ones: My Pal Peggy and her puppets in the Governors Room of the Florence Building at 3 and 5 PM, torch-tossing clown Tag-a-long Tom downtown on Higgins from 5 to 8, and Montana Clown Work’s series of kid-tested, mother-approved interactive game booths (Basketball Booth, Beautiful Booth, Bubble Booth) hosted by Uncle Curly the clown, 3 to 9 PM in the UC atrium.

Revelers with a literary turn of mind will want to get in on the readings at the Art Museum and the Fellowship Hall of First Baptist Church. MFA grad Catherine Jones, currently working on a novel set in Mexico, will read a short story tonight at 5 at the museum and again at 7 at the church; Pushcart Prize-nominated Zan Bockes will also read at both places at 6 and 8 PM respectively; poet Henrietta Goodman at 3 and 4 PM in the same venues, and writer Ed Lahey at 4 and 6. Poet and teacher Sheryl Noethe will read from her work at the church at 5, and two other readers will also do double-duty at the museum and the church: poet David Thomas at 7 and 9 PM respectively, and The Beirut Stories author Christopher Roberts at 2 and 3.

Peter Larson doesn’t need a roof to do his thing as he invites you to stop along the sidewalk in front of the Florence Building to read one of Shakespeare’s sonnets aloud to family, friend or passers-by. In room 330 of the nicely-roofed University Center, on the other hand, a tidy program of speakers has been arranged. Butte native James Harrington starts the word show with discussion of “The I.W.W., Frank Little and Radicalism in Montana History” at 4 PM. At 6, vintage clotheshorses Mark and Sharon Brown will give an “Historical Fashion Review, 1740-1940: What We Wore and Why,” followed at 8 by this equally fascinating scenario: speaker Johnnie Thomas recounting the history of buffalo soldier Moses Hunter by assuming the boyhood persona of her late husband and retelling the story as it was told to him by Hunter, his great-great-grandfather.

Plenty of dance in effect, too, with a few suggestions here: authentic New England contra dancing upstairs at Union Hall (6:30 to 9:30 PM; please show up promptly for workshop), a Louise Harvey chakra-opening (same venue, 3 and 4:30 PM), the Missoula Irish Dancers in UM McGill Gym at 3:30, the Montana Transport Company in University Theatre at 3, dancer Martha Jane Newby running a salsa-foxtrot-tango combo at 5, 6 and 7 PM in the Masonic Temple, Unity Dance and Drum playing traditional West African music in beautiful handmade costumes in the UC Ballroom at 6:30, and Rocky Mountain Ballet Theatre showcasing their limber-limbed magic in the University Theatre at 2 PM.

Theatre, you ask? Try the dizzyingly pluralistic body expression explosion of Patio Andaluz, 5:30 PM on the Missoula Children’s Theatre main stage. Or Beyond the Belt, same place at 7:30. The Society for Creative Anachronism builds a bridge to the fourteenth century with curiously instructive medieval amusements (UC Ballroom, 2 PM), while, at the very same time, Shaun Gant, Sheryl Noethe and Simone Ellis examine “The Poetical Science of Vibrating Systems” in the New Crystal Theatre.

As for the visual arts: the Art Museum of Missoula, Catlin Galleries, Catalyst Espresso, the UM Museum of Fine Arts and the UM Adams Center Lobby will all display the work of local artists, ceramists and photographers. And the New Crystal Theatre is showing classic cartoons from 2 to 6 PM!

And too many live bands and musicians to even get into here! Amy Martin, Jenn Adams, Bill LaCroix, Celtic Harps, Celestial Buckshot, Volumen, the AntiDiFrancos, Big Sky Mudflaps, Quartet Caribe, Ed Norton Big Band…my oh my, looks like it’s going to be a long one.

An $8 First Night button gives you access to all of these events and more. Buttons can be purchased at more than 20 outlets around Missoula, with “family package” discounts offered. A complete, detailed program with tips for maximal First Night enjoyment is also available.

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