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Flathead First Night party set

Flathead First Night party set

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KALISPELL - This year, New Year's Eve begins, as so many do, with Half Truths and Whole Lies, only to end with Clumsy Lovers.

In between are the onions and the bagpipes, but that's getting ahead of the story.

First comes First Night, Kalispell's community celebration of the arts and the annual calendar change. Every year, on the last night of the year, the First Night festivities unfold up and down Main Street, with a booze-free family-friendly gala of visual and performing arts.

There have been nearly 10 First Nights since that first First Night, when they partied like it was 1999 because, well, it was. Back then, the acts were few and far between, just the local rabble rousing themselves for some jam sessions.

Now, however, "we have way, way more things going on."

So said Jennifer Young, who works at Kalispell's Parks and Recreation Department and is collaborating with the city's Downtown Association to throw this year's party.

"It's really fun," Young said: 35 performers, 17 venues, country and rock and jazz and bluegrass and instrumentals. Traveling bands and local high school bands.

This year, the show starts at 7 p.m. and runs 'till 1 a.m., just to make sure the new year is well on its way before heading off to bed.

Over at Noice Studios, local favorite Bill Rossiter will bring his guitar and infamous "Half Truths and Whole Lies" to the stage, warming up for the bluesy ragtime of Noteworthy. Noice closes the year with Big Daddy and the Blue Notes, a favorite for whom this is surely not the first night, nor anything close to the last.

Jazz is the improv of the eve at the KM Theater, while guitars pick their way to midnight at Byte Savvy. The Montana Stone Gallery peels away whole layers of blues with Blue Onion, and 2007 rocks out while 2008 rolls in at JD Morrell's, where Deja Vu reminisces before giving it up to the Good Wood Trio.

Western Outdoors keeps them indoors thanks to holiday tunes and a guitar quartet, and face painters and storytellers entertain the kids next door at Norm's News.

The streets will be closed off, given up for food and fun and carriage rides. So hop a lift to Sassafras if you want some piano and harp, or to Central School Museum to track down Critterman.

Three Roses and a Thorn (they're not saying who's who) will get folksy at Avalanche Creek, while over at the Bridal Shop a DJ spins dance music.

If you live near Colter Coffee, don't worry. The bagpipes will be finished by 8, when an acoustic duo takes the stage. It should be quieter than the basement of the KM, where rock, reggae and funk groove their way into the wee hours.

But come midnight, if you're looking for someone to lay some lips on, the only place to be is the funky old Liberty Theater. Erik "Fingers" Ray will have the joint all warmed up, screaming for the arrival of Canada's own Clumsy Lovers. Their raging bluegrass and Celtic rock is sure to satisfy, clumsy or no.

An $8 ticket gets you in every door in town (call 758-7717 or else pay $10 on the street), and bring the kids, because that's what comes first on First Night. Information about tickets and show times is available at www.downtownkalispellmt.com.

First Night Kalispell

An $8 ticket gets you in every door in town (call 758-7717 or else pay $10 on the street) for First Night Kalispell. Information about tickets and show times for the New Year's Eve events is available at www.downtownkalispellmt.com.

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