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7/2/03

First-timers will highlight First Night

JEFF FRANK
Staff Writer

ESCONDIDO ---- New faces will provide much of the entertainment at this year's First Night celebration.




Don Boomer/Staff Photographer

San Pasqual High School student Leanne Ronk puts her artistic touch on this apron, one of sixty that are being created by 30 high school students with the Escondido Education Compact to be worn by volunteers at First Night Escondido 2004. -

Many of the performers and groups scheduled to appear on 13 stages at Escondido's ninth annual alcohol-free New Year's Eve celebration are well-known in the area, but will make their First Night debuts, said event coordinator Chandra Keir, who released the entertainment schedule this week.

Headlining the night, playing two sets on the main stage at Grand Avenue and Broadway, are oldies rockers The Corvettes, who feature performers from Sha Na Na and the Syndicate of Sound, best known for its mid-1960s hit "Little Girl."

The Corvettes will play up to and beyond the midnight fireworks display that marks the beginning of the new year. Banda Polvera will also perform at the same time on the Latino Stage at Grand Avenue and Kalmia Street.

After much thought, the entertainment committee decided not to include Rockola, the classic rock group that headlined last year's event to much acclaim from those attending, Keir said.

"We loved Rockola. Everybody loved Rockola, but the board decided not to invite them back, but to go with the same kind of group," said Keir. "We were looking for a group like The Corvettes. I've seen them a couple of times and they are really good."

The First Night schedule features much more than classic rock 'n' roll. Along with the Latino Stage, fans of country, classical, nostalgic and acoustical music will each have stages dedicated to the respective genres.

Highlighting the country music offerings are the nationally known Doo Wah Riders out of Los Angeles, who will play two sets on the Country Stage and another on the Main Stage.

The main venues at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido will be reserved for dance acts and classical music. The dance programs will be held in the 1,500-seat Concert Hall this year, to handle what were overflow crowds for many of the groups at previous First Nights, said Keir.

"Every year they overfill the Center Theater. We got a lot of complaints from people who waited in line a long time, then didn't get in," said Keir. "There will be nonstop dance in the Concert Hall. The dance people should be really happy."

Groups performing include Samahan, a Filipino troupe; The San Diego Ballet,;San Diego Dance Theater; City Ballet; and the Malashock Dance & Company, returning from last year.

Classical groups performing in the Center Theater are the San Diego Civic Youth Orchestra, Westwind Brass, Synergy, Vintage Strings and Palomar College professor and pianist Peter Gach.

The Fern Street Circus and magician Dick Dale return to provide children's entertainment. Also returning by popular demand is classical guitarist David Maldonado.

Other offerings range from blues, jazz and zydeco music to the sounds of the didgeridoo, a traditional Australian wind instrument, that storyteller Randy Graves uses to narrate his tales about the aboriginal people of Australia. Participants for the Battle of the Bands, aimed at teens attending the event, have yet to be selected.

"We think (the lineup) is totally awesome. We couldn't be happier," said Keir. "We had so many really good applicants this year."

The entertainment committee, headed by Sandy Russell, selected 36 groups to perform out of 132 applications. The Doo Wah Riders and Spanish rock group Lamonyk are the only two performers from outside San Diego County.

Contact staff writer Jeff Frank at (760) 740-5419 or jfrank@nctimes.com.

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