Saratoga Arts is returning for its fourth year as the organizing body for First Night, a citywide New Year’s Eve celebration in the Spa City that is entering its 18th year.
Joel Reed, Executive Director of Saratoga Arts, said this year, more than 70 regional and touring performing acts will provide music, entertainment, and children’s activities at more than 20 venues throughout Saratoga Springs, and around 40 percent of the acts this year are joining in for the first time.
Reed said the event, which draws more than 10,000 visitors to Saratoga Springs each year, benefits the schools, nonprofits, and businesses that host performers, but also it’s a direct investment in the arts.
“Some organizations might look at what they spend in artists fees and say, ‘Wow, this is our biggest expense,’ for us this is part of mission to support artits. So when we are able to put on this event and in one night pay $50,000 to performers in the region, that’s really important to us and really valuable.”
Reed said the one-night event has a $529,000 impact on the community.
This year, First Night will kick off with a 5k run, and will feature family-friendly events throughout the city. All venues are accessible by walking, and CDTA will again provide a free shuttle service throughout the evening. In annual tradition, fireworks are held at the stroke of midnight.
To run smoothly, the event relies on hundreds of volunteers. Volunteer Coordinator Kate Morse said the strong network of volunteers has helped keep First Night Saratoga a celebration that continues to improve.
“I would say the majority of our volunteers have volunteered at least once in the past –many much more than once. And they’re really telling me ‘well we should have more water at this venue’ or ‘last year there weren’t quite enough lunches packed for the volunteers’, so they make sure I know what they need."
First Night Saratoga is now the largest New Year’s Eve celebration in New York state, outside of New York City, and is now the only of its kind in the Capital Region. Albany’s last First Night Celebration was held in 2005.
Saratoga Springs has undergone a growth spurt in recent years, with more development concentrated in its downtown area. The event’s primary sponsor is Price Chopper, but Reed said that many of the new businesses in town have enthusiastically jumped on to support the event.
“A number of the sponsors have been supported First Night for years, but there a lot of new businesses in town. Northshire Books is a sponsor, Healthy Market is a major sponsor of the 5K, Fingerpaint, some of the new businesses have jumped on board right away too.”
First Night was started to provide a safe, affordable, family friendly alternative on a holiday long associated with drinking. The organizers of First Night 2014 are including free admission to children under 12 with the purchase of adult admission.
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