The Chinese lion ducked into Market Space in Annapolis, made a sharpleft and faced a customer at the Cheese Connection, who was quickly handed a flier announcing a New Year's Eve celebration.
"New Year's?" the man said yesterday afternoon. "That's a long ways to go."
Seven weeks, to be precise, all the way after Thanksgiving, PearlHarbor Day, Hanukkah and Christmas. But there was Joan Zimmerman hefting a sign that said "MAKE PLANS NOW," and there was Elizabeth Welchhanding out fliers announcing the second First Night Annapolis, and there was this Chinese lion that came all the way from Christiana, Del., with the Shao Lin San Kung Fu School.
So go argue.
Asked ifit were not too early to begin promoting the Dec. 31 event, First Night co-director Elizabeth Welch said "People are starting to ask us, 'When are the (admission) buttons going on sale?' "
As promotions go, it was modest. The Chinese lion, which performed at last year's First Night and will be there again this year, cavorted down West Street and Main Street as Welch passed out fliers and urged folks to "make plans now." The entourage started the trek at First National Bank, one of the event's prime sponsors and visited the offices of some other First Night benefactors: Merrill Lynch, Maryland National Bank.
The celebration is bigger this year, with 80 performers doing 130 performances at 30 sites around downtown Annapolis. There were 83 performances last year at 24 sites, attracting about 10,000 people to the city. The organizers sold about 9,000 buttons last year, the first year that Annapolis followed in the footsteps of Boston, Providence, R.I., and about 50 other U.S. cities that last year staged their own First Night. This year, Welch said at least 70 cities are doing First Night, an alcohol-free night of entertainment that began in Boston in 1976.
Starting with a children's program at 4:30, Annapolis will be transformed into a stage, offering during the night jazz, country, Irish, classical and Cajun music; and dramatic readings and a one-actplay -- to mention just a few activities. Events are held all over downtown, in churches, stores, banks, at City Dock and in historic homes.
The entertainment ends at midnight with a peal of bells acrossthe old city, the blare of bagpipes and a shower of fireworks at thewaterfront.
Yesterday's kickoff marked the date First Night organizers started selling First Night buttons, which are required for admission to indoor events. Children 6 and under are admitted for free. Buttons -- sold at banks and stores throughout Annapolis -- go for $8each until Dec. 15, $10 thereafter.
"So buy early and save," saidWelch.
Hurry, hurry. Only 48 days to go.