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First Night Pittsburgh promises fireworks, music, fun and giant rabbits

When one thinks about New Year’s Eve, rabbits probably aren’t the first thing that comes to mind.

Highmark First Night Pittsburgh 2022 just might change that.

“A highlight of this year’s event, ‘Intrude’ from Parer Studios in Australia is a true spectacle,” says Sarah Aziz, director of festival management for the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, which organizes the celebration. “You do not want to miss these gigantic, illuminated rabbits that will take over the 8th Street block of the (Cultural) District.”

Joining the giant rabbits for the Dec. 31 New Year’s Eve festivities will be a full slate of indoor and outdoor events throughout the 14-block radius of Pittsburgh’s Cultural District. The evening starts with a bang via the Dollar Bank Children’s Fireworks at 6:05 p.m. and ends the same way with the Future of Pittsburgh Grand Finale live music and fireworks display at midnight.

The midnight music headliner will be the Byron Nash Trio, playing 10:45 p.m.-midnight on the Highmark Stage at Penn Avenue and Stanwix Street.

Intrude, presented as part of First Night and the EQT Children’s Theater Festival, will remain on view in the Eighth Street Lot and Trust Oasis at 133 7th St. through Jan. 28.

“With the largest (rabbit) measuring 50 feet tall … the public art piece will be inflated and deflated daily, signifying when the three rabbits wake and go to sleep,” Aziz said.

Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review

The New Year’s Eve parade makes its way along Penn Avenue during the Highmark First Night Pittsburgh 2020 event.


This year’s arts-focused, family-friendly events will be presented outdoors across four stages and other activity spaces and indoors in visual art galleries and select performance spaces. All are presented free, although some indoor events require tickets.

“Highmark First Night Pittsburgh attracts between 20,000 and 40,000 people each year,” Aziz said. “After our completely virtual program last year, we hope that the public is as excited as we are to return to the Cultural District for New Year’s Eve.

“It’s safe to say that this year’s Highmark First Night Pittsburgh is going to be accessible to the most people,” she said. “We are not requiring buttons this year, so every aspect — outdoor stages, indoor performances, the parade, fireworks, public art, galleries — is completely free and open to everyone.”

The outdoor stage space is double that of previous years, she added.

Throughout the six-hour celebration, visitors can partake of comedy, dance, music, magic, theater, visual art and more, as well as hands-on activities for every age, including these featured events:

‘Intrude” by Parer Studio

Trust Oasis, 133 7th St., and 8th Street Lot at Penn Avenue and 8th Street, 6-11 p.m.

The installation comprises three 12-foot creatures at the Trust Oasis and a 50-foot “Mama” bunny at the Eighth Street lot.

Amanda Parer and her Parer Studio created “Intrude” to juxtapose the rabbit’s fairy tale-like innocence with the destruction and ecological imbalance they are causing in the artist’s native Australia. “The visual humor of the piece lures audiences into the artwork only to reveal the more serious environmental messages which form the basis of the work,” the Trust said.

Family Tent

8th Street Lot at Penn and 8th Street, 6-10 p.m.

Provides families a place to warm up, hear a story and participate in activities from local organizations.

Williams Sing-Off Competition Winner

7th Street between Penn and Liberty Avenues, 6 p.m.

Each year, dozens of young, aspiring musical artists audition to become finalists in the Williams Sing-Off Competition. The winner performs at the Dollar Bank Stage and receives other prizes. Special guest judge is Adam Pascal.

New Year’s Eve Parade

Penn Avenue, from 10th Street to Stanwix Street, 8-8:30 p.m.

Studio Capezzuti returns with its signature giant puppets for this year’s parade, presented by Giant Eagle.

EQT Plaza

625 Liberty Avenue, 6:30-10:30 p.m.

Soul Line Dancing with Roland Ford presents interactive dance sessions at 6:30, 7:30, 8:30 and 9:30 p.m.

Highmark Stage

Penn Avenue and Stanwix Street

The schedule includes:

• Zuzu African Acrobats, 6:30-7 p.m., 7:30-8 p.m. and 9-9:30 p.m.

The troupe performs traditional African acrobatics passed on by generations of Bantu people in East Africa, combining circus arts with traditional dance movement and music.

• Byron Nash Trio, 10;45 p.m.-midnight

The group was one of Pittsburgh’s most sought-after acts in 2021, playing the Allegheny Overlook Stage, Market Square Music Series, Picklesburgh and Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival. Nash is known for his electrifying guitar playing, powerful stage presence, explosive energy and creative versatility.

Dollar Bank Stage

7th Street between Penn and Liberty Avenues

• Williams Sing-Off Winner, 6 p.m.

• Dollar Bank Children’s Fireworks, 6:05 p.m.

• Baby Rave, child-friendly dance and music event with a DJ, 6:15 p.m. Session is aimed at ages 0-5, but can be enjoyed by all ages.

• Nay Hundo, upcoming Pittsburgh-based female rap artist, 9 p.m.

Eighth Street Stage

8th Street Lot at Penn and 8th Street

• Ice Creations, high-energy fire and ice-carving show, 6, 7, 9:30 and 10 p.m.

• Steel Town Fire, local fire performance company, 6:30, 7:30, 9 and 10 p.m.

Heinz Hall Courtyard Stage

6th Street and Liberty Avenue

• River City Brasstacular, mix of holiday, classical, jazz, rock and Broadway favorites, 6:15 and 7:15 p.m.

• Jay Michaels, Pittsburgh soul and spoken-word singer/songwriter, 8:45 p.m.

• Trinity Wiseman, pop, country and folk originals and cover songs, 9:45 p.m.

Indoor Stages

• Arcade Comedy Theater, local stand-up comedian Suzanne Lawrence, 7, 8:30 and 10 p.m.

• Bricolage Theater, Saudade: A Sense of Play Immersive Theater, 5-11 p.m.

• Harris Theater, A Harris Theater Time Capsule on the Big Screen, 7:45-8:15, 8:45-9:15, 9:45-10:15 and 10:45-11:15 p.m.

• Liberty Magic, sleight-of-hand magician Siegfried Tieber, 7-7:20, 8:30-8:50 and 10-10:20 p.m.

Select indoor performances at Bricolage, the Harris Theater and Liberty Magic require a free ticket for entry due to limited capacity. Tickets for these events can be reserved on the Trust website.

Visual Art Galleries

The following Cultural District galleries will be open from 6-11 p.m.:

• 820 Liberty Gallery, “InVisible” by The Coloured Section Black Artists’ Collective.

• 937 Liberty Gallery, “Among Women: Contemporary Art from Serbia,” works by 11 female Serbian artists.

• 707 Penn Gallery, “For Tonight It’s Everything,” by Wren.”

• SPACE, “FRILLS: Glories, Excess, and Getting Weird.”

• Wood Street Galleries, “New Work by Matthew Schreiber,” including drawing, performance, sculpture, video and light.

Health and safety

Highmark First Night Pittsburgh events fall under the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s health and safety measures. For outdoor events, vaccines and masks are not required, but the Trust encourages mask-wearing, regardless of vaccination status. For galleries, masks are required to be worn by everyone, regardless of age.

For indoor ticketed events, guests are required to provide proof of vaccination and a valid ID with their reserved ticket, and mask up for the duration of the visit. Guests under age 12 are not required to be vaccinated, but must wear a mask and be accompanied by an adult who meets the venue health and safety requirements.

The Trust also offers a First Night Friends VIP experience, with perks including a First Night Friends 2022 light-up button, along with hot beverages, sweet treats and merrymaking from 6-11 p.m. in the First Night Friends Lounge sponsored by Citizens.

First Night Friends receive enhanced access to seats for select outdoor festival events, guaranteed access to select indoor performances and one reserved and pre-paid spot per household in the Theater Square garage.

For more information or to reserve tickets for select events, visit

Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Shirley at 724-836-5750, [email protected] or via Twitter .