AMSTERDAM -- Monday night will mark the first in what city officials plan to make an annual tradition of New Year's Eve festivals in Amsterdam. Just don't call it a "First Night."
"We've decided to go about things a little differently, which is why we kind of ditched the 'First Night' name, because that kind of elicits a certain kind of event where people get buttons, and you get the button ahead of time and you pay for that and then do different activities," said Danielle Whelly, assistant director of recreation for the city of Amsterdam.
Whelly, who was hired by the city in March 2017, said the city's Tourism, Marketing and Recreation Department has been attempting to use a new strategy of leveraging the city's marketing and promotional power, using both conventional media and social media, to create long-lasting annual events centered around traditional holidays. The idea is to promote Amsterdam as a place where people can come to celebrate and where residents don't have to leave for a good time.
The first example of the strategy was Amsterdam's St. Paddy's Day Pub Hop on March 17, which promoted a collection of businesses participating in an event rather than one central city-sponsored event. She said it's important for her department not to overextend itself and attempt to pick sustainable events. She said Amsterdam at one time had a First Night-style New Year's Eve event, but like some other small cities, it eventually abandoned the annual tradition because it became cumbersome to organize and it's difficult to maintain volunteers.
"We want to have more of a care-free day, where people can stop in different places, participate in as many different activities as you want, you don't need to register anywhere ahead of time. We're having a city-wide festival," she said.
"We had just put out the word to local businesses, organizations that if they were already doing activities or events we would promote them. We also tried to give people ideas to have events. We wanted to have kids events, some free events, some pay events. We don't need to recreate the wheel, we're promoting things that people were already doing in the community."
Amsterdam's festival starts at noon at the Creative Connections Clubhouse with a free lunch for kids and crafts at 12:30 p.m., including a "make your own cotton candy" program and a 1:15 p.m. magic show.
Other venues include:
• 2 -9 p.m. at Miss Blue's Pet Boutique & Puppy Scoops Ice Cream, hot cocoa and a cookie for $5.
• 2:30 - 4:30 p.m. at Bacon Youth Center, free Wiffle Ball Home Run Derby & Prizes with the Amsterdam Mohawks.
• 3 - 4 p.m. at the Chuctanunda Creek Trail Greenway - Upper Elk's Lodge Parking Lot, free Winter Wonderland guided tour of the new Chuctanunda Creek Trail Greenway with John Naple.
• 3 - 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. at Parillos Armory Grill, from 3-6 p.m., a meet and greet and golf coupons with new Muni Golf Pro Kevin Canale, live music, food and drink specials. At 10 p.m. espresso, cappuccino and an assortment of desserts for purchase.
• 4 - 8 p.m. at Centro Civico, free food, photo booth, music, and tours of the agency and programs.
• 5 - 8 p.m. at River Ridge Living Center, meet Miss Montgomery County 2018. Photo booth, arts and crafts and hot chocolate.
• 5:30 p.m. - 12:30 a.m. at Sharpshooters Billiards & Sports Pub; 5:30 p.m. live music with Harrison Michael; 8 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. live music with Ryan Nilsen; and headliner Lights Out with $40 cover, buffet and drinks included.
• 9 p.m. at Schotts Tavern, live music.
Whelly said one thing tying all of the events together is a signup form available at each of the venues to participate in a contest for a $1,500 six-day Mexico beachfront stay in Cancun, sponsored by the Amsterdam Mohawks.
"If you go to five places, that's five entry forms, so the greater your chances," she said.
The day's events will conclude at midnight with a fireworks display at the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook Pedestrian Bridge.
Whelly said the fireworks have been paid for by a donation from Lorenzo's Southside and Berkshire Farm Center. She said the official event cost was not available to her Friday.
Mayor Michael Villa said he's pleased with the evolution of the city's Recreation Department into the Tourism, Marketing and Recreation Department, which has included the hiring of Whelly and Michele Pawlik to be the city's new tourism and recreation assistant.
He said he's hoping the new approach will pay dividends in increased participation at city events and increased tourism.
"The idea is not only to get the Amsterdam community, but also the surrounding communities to take notice of what's going on in Amsterdam," he said. "This has been a tremendous effort by everyone. So, we're looking to keep the momentum going."