By Terrah Baker
After two years of bringing in thousands of participants and being named one of TripAdvisor.com’s “Top 10 most unique New Year’s Eve Celebrations,” Last Night Fayetteville has a lot to live up to. Luckily, each year their dedicated organizers and volunteers work hard to make it a little bigger and better.
For 2013, they’ve expanded the Main Stage at the Fayetteville Town Center with feature bands such as Surf De Soleil, Swimming, Shawn James and the Shapeshifters and The Flippoff Pirates. They’ve added a Sideshow Stage where a variety of acts including the juggling duo Jugglology, and aerial dancers will perform. They’re welcoming a new venue at Modus Studio and Specialized Real Estate Group on Church Ave. to accommodate twice the audience for the popular event feature Sheet Fort Theatre. And the VIP experience has been completely revamped, founder and organizer Lauren Embree explained.
To reach out and grow the audience, they’ve started a new program called Community Tickets. When a ticket is purchased at www.lastnightfayetteville.com, there’s an option of adding another ticket to be given to one of two local nonprofit organizations — Youth Bridge or Life Styles. This program is also connected to their volunteer outreach where Last Night will donate one ticket to a nonprofit for every volunteer. This year, it will take over 100 volunteers to make the event happen, all of which get free entrance and schwag for their time. (To sign up to volunteer, visit their website or gosparetime.com.)
Perhaps the most iconic change this year is the brand new Hog Drop, Embree said. They partnered with local artists and sculptor Mike Davis to create a hog statue that will be hoisted 50 feet in the air by the Fayetteville Fire Department and slowly dropped while the crowd counts down to midnight. Each year, the hog will take on a new personality as they work with local artists and organizations to decorate it for the occasion. This year, the featured artist is Matt Miller of Matt Miller Studios.
To pull off such a large event, organizers start planning immediately following each festival, if not before, Embree said.
Since their first festival in 2011, the event has gained a lot of local and national recognition. Southern Living, MSNBC, Country Living, Eventbrite, About.com, VisitSouth.com and many others have included Last Night Fayetteville in their roundup of best New Year’s Eve celebrations.
With all the recognition and support, they wanted to give back through the Community Ticket program to the nonprofits that do so much for the local community. Along with this, they wanted to connect to new audiences who might not have easy access to performance art. Taking on volunteers is another way they do this.
As a nonprofit, Last Night Fayetteville has a volunteer board that meets monthly and ends up gathering an army of over 100 volunteers each year. Embree said they owe much of their success to the supportive local community.
She said her original inspiration for Last Night came from her love of all types of art, artists and Fayetteville.
“I love that for one night out of the year, a spotlight shines on all kinds of crazy talented artists in our community. When else can you enjoy great live music, hilarious comedy, innovative theatre, unique dancers, giant puppets AND fireworks, all in one night?” she said.
Last Night 2014 plans are already in the works, with an innovative new program centered on helping artists of all types develop and grow their business, along with the usual festivities.