Ringing in the second quarter-century of the annual event, fireworks will bring 2023 in with a blast at Arts Council OKC's Opening Night New Year’s Eve event, alongside live performances, food trucks and a bustling crowd.
Organized by a team of two volunteer co-chairs each year, the planning process begins months in advance for the annual event.
Opening Night Co-Chair Kelly McConnell estimated that they each spend approximately 80 hours—working with their fellow co-chair, the Arts Council OKC staff and hundreds of volunteers—to put together the New Year's Eve tradition.
This year, the event returns to Bicentennial Park, running from 7 p.m. to midnight on New Year’s Eve.
“It's been at the Bricktown Ballpark because of some COVID reasons and, you know, everything had changed because of the pandemic,” Opening Night Co-Chair Richard Beam said. “So, this year we're moving back to Bicentennial Park.”
Event performances will be hosted in surrounding buildings as well as on a finale stage in the park, with artists including Orquesta D’Calle, Bricktown Clowns, Opera On Tap, Edgar Cruz, Perpetual Motion, OKC Improv, Sarafina Byrd and Joe Coover.
“It's taking place in four historic downtown locations, which is really cool,” McConnell said. “We've got the Civic Center Music Hall, the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, the downtown library and then City Hall. And it's just really neat for the general public to be able to be in these beautiful historic spaces downtown and enjoy really quality, live talent.”
This year’s Opening Night festival builds on decades of OKC history, according to Arts Council OKC’s Executive Director Emeritus Peter Dolese.
“He explained to me that the first Opening Night took place on December 31, 1986—celebrating the 1987 New Year,” McConnell said. “It began as a project (it was actually their Signature Project of the year) for the Leadership Oklahoma City class that year.”
From there, the event grew into today’s festival.
“Usually attendance is estimated in-between 30,000 and 50,000, depending on the year,” Beam said.
Numerous food trucks will participate, including Newman's Firehouse BBQ, Snow S'more, Junction Coffee, Yum Pig, The Brown's Kitchen, Lolli & Pop's Funnel Cakes, Ohmygogi, Stacey and Seeds Slappin Soulfood, Soul City Tacos, Lucky Lucky Dumpling and Psycho Taco OKC.
“There are some activities for children and young families; there are activities for adults—anyone that wants to come out,” Beam said. “So if you're not into staying up until midnight, don't worry, there'll be things to do at 7 [p.m.].”
The evening ends with a big hurrah as the ball rises in the park and the countdown to midnight begins, followed by fireworks to welcome in 2023.
Ticket wristbands are $8 in advance or $10 at the door and are available at any OKC Metro Dunkin’ Donuts or OnCue locations as well as online.