First Night draws runners and revelers to Spa City
SARATOGA SPRINGS Snow flurries trickled from the sky as runners bundled in hats, gloves and spandex gathered at the starting line for the 16th annual First Night 5K at Skidmore College.
“It’s fun to start the year with a race,” said Katie Bashant, 20, from Ballston Lake.
Despite the cold, Bashant was all smiles and ready to ring in the New Year with a run. She said she’s been runing the New Year’s Eve race for four years.
“It is fun because you don’t really have to worry about going super-fast because it is cold out,” she said.
Alexis Scott, 16, a Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake student, agreed. She was a first-time runner at the First Night 5K.
“I always wanted to do this run every year, and it never really happened,” she said. “I can just enjoy myself; it is not really a competitive race.”
Freezing temperatures and slushy roads did not slow down the First Night 5K runners, and it also did not stop thousands from gathering for the annual First Night Saratoga celebration downtown.
An estimated 8,000 people were in attendance Tuesday night at what is considered to be the biggest New Year’s Eve party in upstate New York, according to Stephen LeBarron, the event director for First Night Shannon.
“Numbers appear moderate to successful based on crowd capacities,” LeBarron said.
The theme of the night was “Color Me First Night,” and tickets were $15. The event concluded with a fireworks show in Congress Park at midnight.
The highlights of the night for many, though, were the more than 70 musical acts and performances filling venues along Broadway.
Maddy Hicks, 14, was one of the performers.
Stationed in the window at the Lifestyles of Saratoga clothing boutique on the corner of Broadway and Caroline Street, Hicks strummed her guitar and sang as First Night patrons passed by, many of them stopping to listen.
Hicks’ friend Darby Larkin, 13, stood in front of the window, braving the cold to watch Hicks perform.
“She is one of the best singers,” Larkin said.
April Hicks, Maddy’s mother, said her daughter has been performing for about two years. Maddy is in the eighth grade, lives in Charlton and writes a lot of her own music. She said her daughter was very excited to perform at First Night Saratoga.
“She wanted to be able to film some more gigs to put out on YouTube,” April Hicks said. “So this will be good.”
Frank Schroeter, 40, who grew up in Schenectady, decided to attend First Night for the first time in a few years. He said the best part of the event is getting to spend time with his family. They started the night off by eating at Irish Times and then made their way down Broadway, stopping to admire the festive lights and decorated windows.
Besides family time, Schroeter said his favorite part of the night is all of the performances.
“It’s a great time, lots to see,” he said. “Great musical acts.”
Dolly Nunziato, 59, and Don Nunziato, 63, of Saratoga, have been coming to First Night for nearly a decade just to hear the music. They sat in the main hall in the City Center waiting to hear Soul Session take the stage.
“There is always great music,” Dolly Nunziato said.
Don Nunziato agreed, adding that he also loves the atmosphere and excitement of Broadway.
Popular among the kids was the Zucchini Brothers, a local band that caters to a younger crowd.
Carol Hazelton, 58, came to First Night with her two daughters, one of them a 3-year-old. She was excited to see that the Zucchini Brothers would be a part of the night.
“We saw these guys when they were here before, and they were fun,” she said.
In the City Center, where the Zucchini Brothers performed, there were balloon animals, clowns and face-painting for the kids.
Kyna Sine, 36, from Greenwich, Conn., has friends who live in the area, and she brought her two young children to First Night. She was impressed with all of the activities that catered to children.
“It is indoors; there is all kind of activities, face-painting, clowns,” she said. “Just good, pure fun.”