First Night rings in the new year in Saranac Lake

Soulsha will perform two shows at the Harrietstown Hall at 10 and 11 p.m. (Photo provided)

SARANAC LAKE — This Sunday marks the 12th annual First Night New Year’s Eve celebration in Saranac Lake.

Eighteen different acts — bands, comedians and children’s entertainers — will each perform multiple 45-minute sets at multiple venues around Saranac Lake from 6 p.m. to midnight.

Because there are so many different acts over the course of six hours, everyone gets a chance to enjoy themselves, according to First Night spokesperson and board member Peter Crowley.

“It gives as many people as possible something to do,” he said.

First Night is also utilizing Twitter, so attendees will know when certain shows start and when venues are at capacity. The handle is @FirstNightSL.

Soma Beats (Photo provided)

Soulsha is probably one of the most eclectic bands out of Boston. Describing themselves as “Afro-Celtic funk,” the group combines tribal drums, a brass section and bagpipes and fiddle into groovy dance music.

Soulsha will perform two sets at the Harrietstown Town Hall at 10 and 11 p.m.

One of the standout acts is Joe Wiegand, a Teddy Roosevelt reprisor. He mixes impersonation, history and comedy into an informative and entertaining show.

“He was here [in Saranac Lake] a few months ago, and he was Teddy,” Crowley said. “People were trying to stump him with questions, and he knew everything.”

Wiegand will perform three shows at St. Bernard’s Church at 7, 8 and 9 p.m.

Owen Benjamin (Photo provided)

Comedian and Saranac Lake resident Owen Benjamin will perform two sets at the Harrietstown Town Hall at 8 and 9 p.m. Benjamin utilizes both stand-up and music to tell jokes about getting the workers at Starbucks to write vulgarities on his coffee cups and how lazy of a music producer Timbaland is. He has performed on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” and “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” and had his own stand-up special presented by Comedy Central.

These are just a few of Sunday’s offerings.

After all the performers are done, there will be a snowflake drop, instead of a ball drop, for the midnight countdown, followed by fireworks over Lake Flower to ring in 2018.

The entire night’s schedule as well as locations that sell all-access First Night buttons prior to the festivities can be found at

Crowley said the celebration is unlike any other the North Country has to offer.

Josee Allard (Photo provided)

“No other community in the northern New York has a New Years event on this level,” he said. In terms of size, it’s not on the level of Saranac Lake’s annual Winter Carnival, but it is of the same caliber, he added.

Before First Night, there wasn’t much entertainment on New Year’s, according to Crowley.

Crowley said he remembers a particular New Year’s Eve before First Night was instated. A friend of his was in town staying with him and his wife.

“Hey, let’s dress up and go out,” his friend said.

So they put on some fancy clothes and hit the bars.

Crackin' Foxy (Photo provided)

When they got to the downtown area, “There was nothing going on,” Crowley said.

Not that they were expecting a celebration to rival New York City’s, but they didn’t think the town would be dead.

Every year since 2006, First Night has been an event many community members and visitors look forward to.

“There’s something you can feel in the air that people really love about it,” Crowley said.

Caramelo Trio (Photo provided)

If you go…

What: First Night’s alcohol-free New Year’s Eve celebration

When: 6 p.m. to midnight Sunday, Dec. 31

Where: Venues around Saranac Lake

How much: First Night pin is $15 in advance for adults (20+) or $20 day of, $7 for teens (13-19) or free for children12 and under.

Atkinson Family (Photo provided)

Roosevelt Dime (Photo provided)

Joe Wiegand, a Teddy Roosevelt impersonator