' We're super excited': Vendors, bars bracing for thousands of visitors for First Night

Sean Coffey Image
Sunday, December 31, 2023
Vendors, bars bracing for thousands of visitors for First Night
The countdown is on to First Night Raleigh and the annual acorn drop in downtown Raleigh.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The countdown is on to First Night Raleigh and the annual acorn drop. Organizers and businesses alike are hard at work getting things ready for thousands of people to descend on downtown Raleigh.

"It makes a difference. It really does. It's a great way to start off the year," said Jessica Dougherty, owner of Carolina Kettle Corn, which will operate a pop-up location at First Night. They've set up shop at several similar events in downtown Raleigh, but this year will be their first-ever First Night.

"We decided that we would apply because they always had such a good experience in the past," said Dougherty. "We've never done First Night Raleigh. This will be our first time, but we heard such great things about it. We're super excited about being here."

Dozens of vendors, Jessica included, were busy preparing for the throngs of visitors that will descend on downtown Raleigh Sunday -- which requires plenty of set-up work.

"We'll probably be out here for another couple of hours setting up, making sure everything's good, ready to go and then we'll come back tomorrow morning and hope for wonderful weather and a wonderful crowd and looking forward to a fun experience to bring in the New Year," she said.

ALSO SEE: First Night Raleigh organizers expecting thousands of attendees

A block over on Wilmington Street, The Green Monkey is looking forward to their first First Night downtown, too. They relocated from their long-time location on Hillsborough Street this past summer.

"Everybody, all of our small business neighbors have told us lots of people," said owner Rusty Sutton. "And so we're just so happy to see lots of people. Even today, we've seen more traffic than normal. So hopefully lots of it."

For bars and shops like Rusty's, First Night is one of the year's big money-makers -- though Rusty admits he doesn't know exactly what to expect yet.

"It's tricky because we don't really have any data to go on except what people tell us," he said. "And so we just we're taking everything that we are expecting the best and just going forward that way."

Other downtown bars like The Anchor are also bracing for large crowds.

"The whole bar will be filled up. The entire street will be filled up. I mean, it brings in a ton of money into the city," said bartender Jason Eakins.

The Anchor is located in a prime position, just steps away from the Funky Ferris Wheel that has become synonymous with the event.

"It'll be shoulder to shoulder, almost all the way down the block and the people come out in droves and droves and droves," Eakins said.

In anticipation of the event, Fayetteville Street will be shut down starting at 10 am, with daytime activities set to begin at 2 pm.

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