ST. PETERSBURG — Downtown’s annual New Year’s Eve party is just the prelude to a bold re-enactment of a city milestone.
On New Year’s morning 100 years ago pilot Tony Jannus flew a small wooden airboat across Tampa Bay carrying a former St. Petersburg mayor in what’s celebrated as the first regularly scheduled commercial flight in the nation.
If weather permits and pilot Kermit Weeks and his team at Polk City’s Fantasy of Flight can safely test their reproduction of Jannus’ Benoist airboat, spectators can watch that moment recreated at The Pier approach Wednesday morning as the plane embarks on a 21-mile journey across the bay to Tampa.
Many of the First Night festivities Tuesday evening will center on the history of the flight, with a reproduction of the plane outside the St. Petersburg Museum of History, exhibits and activities for kids, such as an airplane throwing contest.
The family-friendly party begins at 4 p.m. at the Morean Arts Center on Central Avenue with hat and mask making and then spills out across downtown to the waterfront.
Williams Park will be illuminated with sculptural lanterns made by artists from the Warehouse Arts District and festivalgoers can join in the craft with glass etching, clay and decorating a snaking Chinese dragon.
A full lineup of music is planned for the evening ending with blues from the Lee Boys just before the midnight fireworks. An 8 p.m. fireworks display is scheduled for families with young children and the early-to-bed crowd.
As always, resolutions can be burned in a traditional bonfire or this year even pinned to a large paper phoenix, which will be lit on fire with the hope that the night’s vows will rise from the ashes in 2014.
The party is put on by the nonprofit First Night group, not the city, and buttons for admission to music venues and other activities can be bought before or at the event.