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‘Cirque du Santa Cruz’ picked as New Year celebration theme
Sentinel staff writer

Balloon artist Jimmy Whitworth squeezes
a 12-foot balloon clown out of the
McPherson Center for Art and History
after a press conference on Thursday.
Sentinel photo by Shmuel Thaler

SANTA CRUZ — This year, New Year’s Eve really will be a circus.
Or at least that’s what Marc Murai, dressed in red tails and a Mad-Hatter-style black balloon hat, is hoping. Murai and other organizers of First Night Santa Cruz announced Thursday that “Cirque de Santa Cruz” will be this year’s theme.

Like the French circus troupe Cirque de Soleil, First Night organizers are hoping the celebration will carry a kinetic energy and spirit of fun for children of all ages. No, they aren’t planning to invite elephants or lion tamers to the stage, but there will be clowns — and lots of them. In fact, Murai will be encouraging local children to clown around at clowning workshops that he hopes will bring more than 850 adult and child clowns to the festivities.

“Almost everyone loves a circus,” said Trink Praxel, a founder of First Night and member of the board. “And more than that, it really conveys that this is a family event.”

Murai is hoping families will turn out for what he promises will be a newly revitalized grand procession. Last year, families complained that the procession was less than grand, shrinking in time from about an hour to less than a half-hour. Murai said the theme should lend itself to a lengthy and entertaining parade down Pacific Avenue.

The seventh annual First Night is an alcohol-free event. In addition to street performances by singers, dancers and musicians, First Night hosts more than 200 performances in local venues. The reason organizers announced the theme in May, they say, is to get performers thinking about what they’d like to do for the event. Performing artist proposals are due June 1 and visual art proposals are due June 29.

For more information, call First Night Santa Cruz at 425-7277 or check the group’s Web site at

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