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First Night Missoula isn't out to reinvent its own wheel, but it is looking to spice things up to celebrate its 15th anniversary.

And in large part, it's up to the arts public to determine exactly what that means.

"We don't generally sit around and say who should be in our festival," said Tom Bensen, executive director of the Missoula Cultural Council, which hosts the annual alcohol-free evening on Dec. 31. "The artists come to us. For a lot of groups and artists, it is the largest local audience they'll have all year."

First Night Missoula has its popular staples that are big audience draws every year, but now the cultural council is trying to get the word out that they're looking for some new events and acts as First Night prepares for 15 years in Missoula.

"We're trying to figure out ways to make it really exxiting, possibly rexruiting businesses and organizations to xreate their own First Night events," said Sarah Bruya, MCC special events coordinator. "We've brainstormed a lot of ideas. We're hoping to let the community know that we're open for ideas and people who may not have been involved in the past may have ways of being involved."

One idea that's arisen is the possibility of a winter carnival, with more outdoors events and activities that the public can get involved in, said Bensen.

"In a way, the more out of the box it is, it sometimes has a better chance of getting accepted," he said.

"It's a festival of art but there's a big definition of what art is. In Missoula, people have come to look at First Night as a way to be entertained. It can be much more than that."

Got an idea for First Night?

The application for First Night Missoula is June 30. Applications are available at or by calling 532-3240. First Night Missoula is also seeking artwork submissions for the 15th anniversary button, poster and program cover. Deadline for proposals is Aug. 31.

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