All First-Night Action Under Foothills’ Roof
By LIBBY CUDMORE • HOMETOWN ONEONTA
Edition of Friday, Nov. 21, 2014
Like the snowflakes that flutter down on New Year’s Eve, each First Night celebration is different. “We’re always starting new traditions,” said David Hayes, one of the organizers. “We’re not afraid to try new things.”
This year, you won’t even have to face the snow and cold to enjoy the magic of the celebration. First Night has teamed up with Foothills to bring the city-hopping party under one roof.
“It was tough for families, especially with young children, to go to a venue, then have to bundle everyone back up and walk back across town to see something else,” said Carol Mandigo, who chairs the First Night board. “It’s a great partnership.”
Acts will be divided up between the Atrium, the 620-seat Main Stage, and the Production Room Theater and smaller Upstairs Theater in the administration building. In the future, Mandigo hopes heated tents can be placed outside to bring in more performers.
Though at first they were worried that people would think First Night was shrinking or on the verge of vanishing completely, Mandigo said she’s heard nothing but good things about the change. “People are relieved,” she said. “Last year was so cold, and some venues weren’t as well attended as other because people didn’t want to have to walk.”
For the first time in a while, there will be no First Night parade on New Year’s Eve. It has been shifted to the two-day Hometown Fourth of July, celebrated for the first time this year in Neahwa Park. “It’s much easier to recruit musicians and community groups in warm weather,” said Hayes. “If we’re going to do a parade, we want it to be a robust one.”
Instead, an opening ceremony, featuring puppets, dance troupes and Cosmic Karma Fire dancers is planned at 5:30 p.m. at Foothills, with a special dedication to Mayor Dick Miller. “We want to celebrate everything he has done to support First Night over the years,” said Mandigo.
With Gandolf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams as the headliner, Mandigo hopes the event will have a “three-ring circus” feel. “We’re a month out and we’re hiring more clowns and magicians,” she said. “We want to provide something unusual, something people haven’t seen before.”
Popular First Night performer BJ the Clown has even added to her repertoire for an enhanced carnival feel. “She took a balloon sculpture workshop, so she’s going to put together a big ‘Life Enjoyed’ sculpture in the atrium,” said Mandigo. “There will even be a balloon drop from the ceiling just before the fireworks!”
Volunteers are still needed for the event, and volunteers get a free admission button. To volunteer, sign up at www.firstnightoneonta.com.