Saratoga County

Buttoned First Nighters pack shows

First Night Saratoga organizers said Monday night they were on target to sell 14,000 buttons, making
Clare Kelly, 5, of Saratoga Springs, far right, posts her New Year’s resolution, "I want to be great," on the GE mural in front of the Saratoga Springs City Center on Monday.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Clare Kelly, 5, of Saratoga Springs, far right, posts her New Year’s resolution, "I want to be great," on the GE mural in front of the Saratoga Springs City Center on Monday.

Categories: Schenectady County

First Night Saratoga organizers said Monday night they were on target to sell 14,000 buttons, making the 12th annual event the best attended.

“I think we probably will,” said Maureen Duda, First Night coordinator for the Saratoga YMCA, about sales of the buttons that get purchasers into the many musical venues.

“All the venues seem to be quite packed,” Duda said.

First Night Saratoga, the only First Night left in the Capital Region, was created as a family-oriented, alcohol-free celebration of the arts on New Year’s Eve.

More than 35 locations in and near downtown Saratoga Springs offered 80 live musical or light theatrical performances.

“There is a steady flow of traffic,” said Sgt. Jason Tetu of the city police department.

Tetu estimated about 10,000 people in the city at 8 p.m. and expected more to come.

“It does build up,” Tetu said about the First Night crowd mounting as midnight approached. “It looks like they are going to meet their number. Everything is going smooth.” He said the first round of fireworks went off without a hitch and the First Night 5K road race went well with about 1,000 runners participating.

Douglas and Mara Van Vorst of Charlton have made a tradition of coming to Saratoga Springs for First Night with their three children, Emma, 13, Jacob, 11, and Ethan, 6.

Mara Van Vorst said last year they parked their car outside the city and took a CDTA bus downtown. The CDTA runs special free buses into downtown from several locations. But this year, Doug Van Vorst was able to find a parking space downtown.


The family ate dinner at a restaurant on Broadway, then went out to see and hear the music that would usher in the new year of 2008.

This year’s First Night started off with a bang shortly before 6 p.m. when fireworks filled the sky behind the Saratoga Springs City Center.

Fireworks, created by Alonzo’s Fireworks of Schaghticoke, also celebrated the new year at midnight.

For Barbara Garro, a local artist and author, working as a volunteer on First Night has become a tradition.

Garro was checking buttons at the City Center, where Kevin McKrell’s Hard Road Ceilidh Band and Seven Nations shared the stage every other hour.

“I used to perform as Mother Goose and Gander,” Garro said about the first couple of First Nights.

Garro worked from 6 to 9 p.m. as a volunteer at the City Center, then went over to the Epiphany Theater at 153 Regent St., where she volunteered another three hours.

She said she really liked the Imagining Lennon performance that was one of the acts at the theater.


While the Doug Kwartler Band played to about 60 people in the Saratoga Springs Post Office on Broadway, a postal service employee was selling First Night Saratoga envelopes with a special postal cancellation stamped on them.

Across Church Street at the Adirondack Trust Co., Mike and Laurie Mero of Saratoga Springs were attending their very first First Night Saratoga.

“We always worried about the crowd,” Mike Mero said about why they hadn’t attended a First Night, even though they have lived in Saratoga Springs for 18 years.

Bluesman L.B. Walker provided the music at Adirondack Trust Co.

“We are expecting a record crowd,” said James Letts, the chief executive officer of the Saratoga YMCA.

He thanked the 300 volunteers that make First Night Saratoga possible at the opening ceremonies in the City Center atrium. Letts said the YMCA coordinates First Night but it’s the volunteers and signature sponsors, such as the General Electric Co., that make it happen.

Letts noted that this is the first First Night Saratoga to use the new Saratoga YMCA facility at 290 West Ave. The new YMCA was a venue for the Saratoga Savoy Swingkids with a bounce house and chin-up bar available throughout the evening.

Duda said she and the YMCA staff are already planning for next year’s First Night Saratoga.

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