PORTSMOUTH – There was a feeling of hope in the air as people from near and far were in downtown Monday to celebrate First Night.

Thousands of people attended Pro Portsmouth’s planned events, packed local restaurants and picked out unique items from retailers as 2018 came to an end.

Travis and Whitney Genatossio, of York, Maine, were in Market Square checking out the ice sculptures with their children, Aggie, 3, and Jackson, 5.

“We’ve been coming for 10-plus years now, since we were students at UNH,” Travis Genatossio said.

Aggie, who is about to turn four, is looking forward to a special birthday party in 2019. Jackson cannot wait to see his friends when he returns to school.

Whitney Genatossio said she looks forward to spending time with her family, as well as starting graduate school classes to study education.

Nearby, Katie White, of Farmington, was with Miranda Bailey-Russomano. Bailey-Russomano lives in Minnesota and the duo decided to do something special as the new year rolled in because it was the first time they have seen each other since August.

Bailey-Russomano said her main goal for 2019 is to include purpose in her actions.

“My general resolution is the keep being intentional about what I am doing,” Bailey-Russomano said.

New to the First Night entertainment lineup this year was contemporary clown Daniel Forlano. His first show at the Seacoast Repertory Theatre on Bow Street was packed and audience members were kept in stitches as Forlano performed.

Forlano has been honing his craft for about 20 years and said he approaches clowning as a form of acting.

“Laughter is the side effect of the art,” Forlano said.

Forlano was pleased with the audience turnout and said he is looking forward to 2019 for the first time in many years for a variety of reasons.

Other popular First Night performers included magician Peter Boie, T.J. Wheeler and Company, Randy Armstrong and Genevieve Aichele.

The concept of a family-friendly First Night began in Boston in 1976 and spread into communities across the country and internationally. In the 1980s, there were a handful of First Nights in New Hampshire, including in Keene, Concord and Wolfeboro, but most have fallen by the wayside, leaving Portsmouth as the only official First Night community in the state.