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What you need to know for 11/19/2017

Another First Night, another good time

Another First Night, another good time

Crowds in Saratoga have plenty of venues to enjoy
Another First Night, another good time
MaryLeigh Roohan of Troy performs at the Saratoga Vistors Center at First Night on Saturday evening.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

The city of Saratoga Springs held its 21st annual First Night Saratoga celebration Saturday evening, ringing in the New Year with an eclectic group of musical and other acts throughout the city.

The evening boasted more than 50 bands, musicians, comedians and entertainers at nearly 20 venues, from the City Center on the north end of Broadway to St. Peter’s Parish Center on the thoroughfare’s southern end. The event ran from 6 p.m. to midnight, with fireworks over Congress Park as the clock struck 2017.

Heather McElhiney, a First Night volunteer overseeing events at the Saratoga Springs Visitor Center, said one of the major draws to First Night every year is the wide range of performers who are booked by event organizers.

“It’s a very popular and successful event,” said McElhiney, as Maryleigh Roohan crooned a sultry number in the background. “It’s a very family friendly event and there are acts and entertainers here spanning all genres, so there’s something for everyone.”

Carol and John Ercig of Saugerties said they recently did the Saratoga and North Creek Railway Polar Express train ride, and decided they simply have to check out First Night for the first time.

“I love it,” said Carol Ercig. “I love the brass band, we want to try to do this next year with all our kids.”

That brass band was named the Buffalo Brass Machine, a septet from Buffalo known for its boisterous brand of (almost) big band funk. The group played outdoors on the same corner at Broadway and Spring Street as last year — outside the county arts council building — and said despite the cold they just had to return to First Night for the enthusiastic crowd and celebratory vibe.

“It was our first-ever gig and we had to make a point of coming back,” said band member Ian Kerr-Mace. “The crowd is great.”
Fellow band member Lance Waithe said the people that come to First Night are the biggest draw for the band.

“We love the people, anywhere there’s good people you can find Buffalo [Brass Machine],” said Waithe. “I mean, these people stand out here and essentially freeze with us, that’s pretty nice.”

It’s unclear how much freezing was going on though because most who stopped to listen to the band, as well as the band members themselves, moved energetically to the beat.

North on Broadway, Mike Campese was avoiding the cold while playing his guitar in the display window of Lifestyles of Saratoga. A crowd formed outside the window to watch and listen to him play licks in the vein of Jimi Hendrix and Black Sabbath.

Marlene Rodgers was with her family watching Campese.

“Each of us picked one of our favorite acts so we’re seeing them first and then will go to the others,” said Rodgers, who was awed by the variety of acts at this year’s First Night. “Anything you want, if you want to see it it’s probably here.”

Her son, Adam Graham, received a guitar for Christmas and wanted to learn how to play just like Campese, so he was Graham’s first choice. “I want to multi-task and do different things, I’m deep into the music,” said Graham, who filmed portions of Campese’s performance.

In the lower auditorium at the City Center hundreds of people jammed to local favorites Sirsy, while upstairs dozens more spun around the dance floor to Alex Torres & His Latin Orchestra.

Bonita Carr, 75, of Syracuse, came with a group of other seniors and was just taking off her shoes so she could dance better.
“I haven’t been to as good a one as this in awhile,” said Carr of First Night Saratoga, as she boogied across the floor. “Dancing is my passion. I just got here but I need water, I’m out of breath!”

Heather O’Leary teaches at a local elementary school where Alex Torres works as a translator.

“He’s just an amazing person and musician,” she said of Torres, as nearby her 4-year-old nieces, twins Lia and Mia Estevadeordal, moved to the beat in matching red dresses. “He said he’d be here so we made sure we came out and saw him.”

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