FRESNO--Thousands of tribal people who fled their homeland in Laos will gather for the Hmong National New Year Celebration, Thursday-Jan. 1. Traditional foods, such as spicy skewered beef, chicken, pork and stir-fry with noodles, will be for sale as well as crafts. Intricately sewn clothing will be on display. 8 a.m.-5 p.m. at Fresno County Fairgrounds, 1121 Chance Ave. $1; over 65 and under 10 free. (209) 485-6032.
ESCONDIDO--Midnight fireworks and 12 stages with about 50 performers will be featured at First Night Escondido--one of several alcohol-free New Year's Eve celebrations in the state. At California Center for the Arts. 6 p.m.-midnight Dec. 31 along Grand Avenue from Maple to Kalmia streets. $9 ($7 advance), children 5 and under free. (760) 739-0101.
BIG BEAR LAKE--The Torchlight Parade will honor the impending new year. Hundreds of skiers and snowboarders (employees of Snow Summit and their families) will slowly proceed down Log Chute Run, each carrying a lighted flare. 7 p.m. Dec. 31 at the resort off Big Bear Boulevard. Free. (909) 866-5766.
SANTA CRUZ--First Night will feature entertainment on outdoor stages and more than 50 indoor venues--with bluegrass, Cajun, blues and other live music. A Grand Procession at 5:30 p.m., will have music groupsand giant puppets. Activities will be centered along Pacific Avenue. 3 p.m.-midnight. Outdoor entertainment is free; to enter venues, buy buttons: $9 ages 16 and over, $5 ages 5-15, under 5 free. (408) 425-7277.