Using bicycles to paint pictures is not some crazy new workout regime, but a fun activity people can do at this year’s First Night Saratoga.
The festival, throughout much of downtown Saratoga Springs, is just one of the many ways the Capital Region celebrates New Year’s Eve.
Saratoga Arts is organizing the event for the first time after 14 years of sponsorship by the YMCA.
“It was a good fit for us. It’s really a community art festival and we’re all about making the arts accessible to the community,” said Saratoga Arts Executive Director Joel Reed.
This year’s theme is “Live Creatively.”
As part of an exhibit called Band of Bicycles, people will have the opportunity to ride bicycles that control a spin art machine, power a light show or operate blenders that will make fruit smoothies, according to Reed.
Students from the Saratoga Springs High School honor society and environmental club will education the public on the exhibit and green power.
Local artist Anne Diggory will also be creating nearly two dozen door-size panels that are based on the Hudson River Valley landscape. Visitors are encouraged to either draw on the panels or add stuff to it to make it complete.
There will also be a variety of musical entertainment, including the Singing Anchors — featuring WNYT anchors Benita Zahn and Jessica Layton and CBS6 anchor Jerry Gretzinger at the Saratoga Springs City Center.
People can purchase buttons allowing admission to all events for $15 at the Saratoga Arts center at 320 Broadway, local Price Choppers, Stewart’s and Adirondack Trust banks, as well as online at www.saratoga-arts.org.
Reed said people look forward to a family friendly, alcohol free event.
“I think people enjoy celebrating big events with the whole community. The collective nature of it is energizing and fun and it’s a great way to start the new year,” Reed said.
Saratoga is the only community in the Capital Region doing a full-scale First Night event, although a bit farther to the north, Saranac Lake is also hosting a First Night celebration featuring music, snowflake/ball drop and fireworks. Buttons cost $12 and are free for children under age 12.
last night, too
Out in western Montgomery County, St. Johnsville is once again hosting Last Night, a small, family-oriented event started in 2007 as a way to honor St. Johnsville’s Sesquicentennial. “It was very successful, but too much to do on an annual basis, so we convinced Fort Plain and Canajoharie to do it on a rotating basis,” said Bob Smith, co-chairman of the Sesquicentennial Steering Committee.
Fun is clearly the theme here. Among the featured events is a “trash dash,” which is an Iditarod-type race where people will have to haul a homemade sled loaded up with weight across a designated path. The first person to complete the course wins a prize.
There will be a maple-glazed meat loaf supper from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the community house on Washington Street and some children’s programming between 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. featuring Flower the Clown and musician Gary VanSlyke and a piñata drop. Fireworks are at 9 p.m. followed by more adult-oriented entertainment, including a performance by Dick Solberg and the Sun Mountain Band at 9:30 p.m. at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and Annie and the Hedonists at the community house.
There will also be other musical acts performing throughout the night and theater troupes performing in the street.
At midnight, the community is dropping what it is calling the “Ball of Hope.” It is a big wire globe about 3 feet in diameter. People in five communities in western Montgomery County are writing their hopes and dreams of 2010 onto sheets of colored paper and will place them into the ball.
“We’re going to lower them into the bonfire and have them burn up, just like in real life,” Smith said with a chuckle.
Buttons are needed to attend the musical events and cost $5 in advance and $7 the night of the event. They can be purchased at the Margaret Reaney Library and Country Treasures Furniture store and other local locations throughout the county.
He said people always look forward to the event. “There’s not much going on in this neck of the woods. It’s a nice alternative to driving to Albany or Saratoga.”
Other people are opting for more low-key celebrations. The Johnstown Holiday Inn on Route 30A is offering dinner and entertainment by the two-man band the Sophisticats in its dining room beginning at 5 p.m.
General Manager Jim Landrio said an overnight stay package including dinner will be attractively priced to entice people to come out and celebrate without having to get back on the road.
Big New Year’s Eve parties have been waning for the last few years. “The recent changes in the DWI laws have really changed how people go out and socialize. Those parties are no longer big factors. The last couple years the downtrend in the economy certainly finished off that,” he said.
People also have smaller gatherings in homes.
Also, other communities have stopped doing First Night celebrations. Albany ended its in 2006 in favor of a family festival a different weekend.
There are other events taking place.
Schenectady Bombers will hold a New Year’s Eve party from 9 p.m. until 2 a.m., featuring a buffet for $8.99. There will also be a disc jockey on the main floor and a band on the third-floor La Playa room. Reservations are recommended. Contact Dave Stutzman at 928-4668 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Albany, beginning on New Year’s Eve, there will be the “Rock, Rattle & Drum New Year’s Eve Pow Wow and Celebration 2010-2011” at the Grand Ballroom of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Albany. The event will feature American Indian dancing and drumming, arts, crafts and demonstrations and food. Throughout the weekend there will be special performances by Grammy- and Native American Music-award winning flute player Joseph FireCrow.
Doors open at 6 p.m. and Grand Entry is at 8 p.m. The event continues on New Year’s Day from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Jan. 2 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for seniors and children age 11 to 17 and free for children under 10.
For more information, tickets and reservations, contact Healing Winds at 413-443-2481 or the Crowne Plaza Hotel at 462-6611 group code: CPB at
Also, there will be a performance of “Savion Glover’s ALL FuNKD’ UP featuring hip-hop violinist Daniel Bernard Roumain and tap dancers and singers at 8 p.m. in the Hart Theatre at The Egg. Tickets cost $34.50 to $39.50. A limited number of $75 tickets include a post-performance New Year’s reception including champagne, refreshments and dancing.
The Desmond Hotel is doing a special four-course dinner and dancing in the Fort Orange Ballroom to the music of Grand Central Station. There will be a balloon drop and champagne toast at midnight. The cost is $499 per couple for overnight accommodations and $185 per person for just the dinner party.
Hotel operators are optimistic about the holiday season, according to New York State Hospitality & Tourism Association spokesman Mark Dorr. Occupancy in Capital Region hotels is up about 9 percent over last year through October.
“Occupancies are starting to creep back to 2007-08 respectable levels,” he said.
In addition, a lot of hotels are offering great packages with restaurants, according to Dorr.
The Water’s Edge Lighthouse Restaurant always has a New Year’s Eve celebration with a special menu and music. Co-owner Karen Popolizo said people enjoy being on the river and seeing all the lights illuminated for the holiday season.
Restaurateurs are also hopeful about the New Year’s Eve bookings and the holiday season in general. The economy seems to be recovering and people are more willing to eat out for a special occasion, according to Rick Sampson, president and CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association.
“What other better way to celebrate the New Year than having a night out?”