What makes First Night First Night?
SARANAC LAKE — Everybody knows New York City has a big New Year’s Eve celebration each year.
Don’t ever go to that.
Standing around in the cold for half a day, huddled next to thousands of randos and catching a glimpse of Ryan Seacrest is not worth it to watch a ball drop for 10 seconds. Walking through Times Square on any day, let alone New Year’s, is just not fun.
Saranac Lake has its own celebration that is much better than the city’s and nowhere near as claustrophobic.
On Tuesday Night, Saranac Lake will host the 14th-annual First Night celebration, which features a wide variety of musical acts, comedians and kids performers at various locations around town. Some of the acts include Catskills-based folk-rock group the Mammals, bubble performer Jeff Boyer and the always popular Teddy Roosevelt impersonator Joe Wiegand.
First Night starts at 6 p.m. and concludes with a fireworks show over Lake Flower at midnight. The event is alcohol-free.
To attend the events, you’ll need a First Night button. They can be bought in advance at firstnightsaranaclake.org or various local businesses (see infobox) — $15 for adults and $10 for teens. On the day of, buttons will be available at the Harrietstown Town Hall and Ampersound Music — going up to $20 for adults and remaining $10 for teens. Children under 12 get in for free.
Local artists Tim Fortune, who owns the Small Fortune Studio on Main Street, said before First Night started, there wasn’t much in the way of celebrations on New Year’s Eve.
“I might have visited a friend’s house, but some years I would just stay home,” he said. “There wasn’t really a communal celebration. Everyone did their own thing. Downtown was pretty dead other than a couple of bars.”
Fortune also donates to First Night.
“First Night provides an opportunity for an alcohol-free, family celebration,” he said. “Like any event, in order for it to have legs, it has to capture people’s imaginations year after year, and I think it’s done that.”
“It’s also a great way of looking forward to the new year. You’re glad to be done with the year, depending on your outlook.”
Fortune said one of his favorite acts from a past event was a Beatles tribute band. This year, he’s looking forward to Alex Torres & His Latin Orchestra.
“I’ve seen them before. They really get the crowd going and dancing,” he said.
Ken Fontana runs the Blue Moon Cafe on Main Street. He said New Year’s Eve has always been a popular night for his business, but the dynamic changed once First Night stepped in. He said New Year’s Eve at his restaurant has gone from a somewhat busy night to a much more table-turning affair.
“We used to have a lot more people coming in and sitting down for two to three hours,” he said in a phone interview. “We still get those folks, but now we also have guests who are passing through quicker. We’ll ask if they’re on a timeline and if they need to get to another show soon. Sometimes that might change their order from a full meal to something quick like a bowl of chili or some baked goods.”
Fontana said New Year’s Eve is up there with the summer months and Winter Carnival week as one of the busier times for the cafe.
“Any time people are out and about, it’s good for us,” he said.
Today, there are still those moments of a silent downtown, but that changes whenever a show lets out, Fortune said.
“It’s interesting for anyone who hasn’t been to First Night,” he said. “You come downtown and no one is on the streets, but every 45 minutes, people flood the sidewalks, and everybody is walking back and forth. It can get quite crowded, especially when you got the diehards that come year after year.”
IF YOU GO . . .
What: First Night Saranac Lake
When: 6 p.m. New Year’s Eve
How much: Advance buttons are $15 for adults and $10 for teens, “day of” buttons are $20 for adults and $15 for teens, children under 12 are free
Where to buy buttons:
— Ampersound Music, 52 Main St., Saranac Lake (Day of too)
— Adirondack Daily Enterprise, 54 Broadway, Saranac Lake
— Adirondack Carousel, 2 Depot St., Saranac Lake
— Blue Line Sports, 81 Main St., Saranac Lake
— Coakley Home & Hardware, 622 Lake Flower Ave., Saranac Lake
— Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, inside Harrietstown Town Hall, 39 Main St., Saranac Lake (Day of too)
— Price Chopper, 1930 Saranac Ave., Lake Placid
— Lake Placid Visitor Bureau, 2608 Main St., Lake Placid
– SEE FULL SCHEDULE AT http://firstnightsaranaclake.org/schedule.html