SALT LAKE CITY — The Downtown Alliance is beefing up its New Year's celebration, extending it to six days and 12 venues across town.
The EVE WinterFest will kick off the day after Christmas and go through Dec. 31, when the 20-foot, lighted and suspended MirrorBall will drop on Salt Lake City "in dramatic fashion," said Jason Mathis, executive director of the nonprofit organizer of the week full of activities.
"It'll be great for families," he said. "As a parent, I'm always looking for something to do that week."
The event, Mathis said, "builds on Utah's spirit of Olympic reverie," igniting the downtown night life for adults and children, offering something for everyone at an affordable price.
The Utah Jazz have freed up 1,000 free, lower bowl tickets for the Dec. 29 game, which will be available on a first-come, first-served basis two days prior to the game. And multiple events will be available all week, including access to downtown museums, Temple Square, City Creek Center and the Salt Lake Main Library.
Tickets also include access to cinema and comedy performances and concerts throughout the week.
EVE's creative director, Topher Horman, said the New Year's Eve celebration gets bigger and better every year.
At the Salt Palace Dec. 30 and 31, he's planned to have places for ticket holders to witness and participate in Salt Lake's vibrant song and dance culture, spots to relax and ruminate on the ending and coming years, as well as places to get active and participate in adult- and child-friendly bounce houses, oversized game boards, and crowd-based karaoke, not to mention human-sized bowling, giant arcade games and "ball rooms" complete with inflatable, human-sized hamster balls and thousands of beach balls.
"It's going to be outstanding as always," Horman said Wednesday when the Downtown Alliance kicked off its plans for the upcoming weeklong festival.
Tickets are already available and selling fast — $25 for adults and $15 for kids (ages 3 to 9) for an all-week Super Pass, allowing one-time entrance to each venue; or one-day passes for $20 for adults and $10 for kids. However, America First Credit Union has teamed up with the Downtown Alliance and is selling passes at a discount rate, less than $5 for each multiday pass.
"School is out that week and everyone is looking for ways to stay busy during that time," said Nicole Cypers, community outreach director with America First.
Mathis said the event is geared toward Utah's families, but also others who enjoy the multitudinous activities downtown Salt Lake City offers.
"It's a cost-effective way to enjoy a whole week of activities," he said, adding that extending the event to six days helps EVE be taken more seriously as a reputable winter festival — akin to what the city hosted during the Olympics in 2002 — as well as the Sundance Film Festival, which brings in tens of thousands of people from in and out of Utah every year.
Ticket sales are capped at 25,000, though the city is expecting 30,000 to 40,000 visitors through the week, as some activities don't require tickets. And Mathis said EVE is sure to sell out this year.
The nonprofit Downtown Alliance doesn't make money on the event, but has hosted the EVE WinterFest every year for the past eight years to support local businesses and the community, hoping to "create a great experience for the people of Utah," Mathis said.
Prior to EVE, which has been offered as a three-day celebration in recent years, the event was called First Night and was held downtown on New Year's Eve for 16 successful years.
Mathis has heard that local restaurants and bars can report an increase in sales that week, and about 800 to 1,000 hotel packages are sold accompanying the event, making it a "good-sized convention in a week when there is no convention," he said.
"So there's clearly some economic benefit," Mathis said, adding that EVE has successfully brought people into Salt Lake City's urban center to ring in the new year in a safe and family friendly way.
"This is a big deal for us," he said. "And it has great potential to continue to grow."