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Plan your First Night

Learn a little about each performer slated for Saranac Lake’s family-friendly New Year’s Eve celebration

December 12, 2009
By PETER CROWLEY, Enterprise Managing Editor, with information from the performers and organizers

SARANAC LAKE - Now in its fourth year, First Night Saranac Lake is the village's family-oriented, alcohol-free New Year's Eve celebration. It mainly consists of a large number of performances, mostly by North Country artists but also featuring some special guests from farther afield.

Attending First Night requires choosing which events to attend, and instead of making those decisions on the fly - although you're still likely to enjoy yourself - a little planning can be helpful. To help you make those plans is the purpose of this page.

Some of the performers have Web sites and contact information that can be reached from the First Night Web site, firstnightsaranaclake.org, under "performers."

Article Photos

The Gibson Brothers, Eric (left) and Leigh), perform at the first First Night Saranac Lake on Dec. 31, 2006.
(Enterprise file photo — Lou Reuter)

Each performance lasts 45 minutes (except comedian Moody McCarthy's 30-minute sets), and they begin every hour on the hour from 6 to 11 p.m. at 10 venues around the village. Most venues are clustered in or near downtown to make walking easy, and buses will provide $1-per-person rides to the two farthest-out venues: BluSeed Studios and Pendragon Theatre.

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Admission

To get in, you need a button, which costs $12. Buttons are on sale at the Enterprise, Ampersound Music, Blue Line Sports, Books & Baskets, the Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, Lake Placid/Essex County Visitors Bureau and Price Chopper. People can also buy buttons during First Night at the Harrietstown Town Hall.

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At the Harrietstown Town Hall

At 10 and 11 p.m.

THE GIBSON BROTHERS have swollen the hearts of their hometown, Ellenburg Depot, and made bluegrass fans throughout the North Country proud to call this hard-driving, Grammy-award-winning band their own. Eric and Leigh Gibson and their bandmates have performed many, many times in Saranac Lake, including headlining the first First Night Saranac Lake on Dec. 31, 2006. Their new, ninth album is called "Ring the Bell." Reviewing them in the Washington Post, Geoffrey Himes wrote, "The Gibson Brothers deliver their tales of rural life with a mixture of pain and joy that rings truer than the romanticism of most bluegrass."

At 6, 7 and 8 p.m.

MANGO JAM is a six-piece dance band from Vermont that has been performing for about 15 years, drawing its inspiration mostly from the music of Louisiana and the Caribbean: zydeco, Cajun, New Orleans R&B, ska and reggae.

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At Pendragon Theatre

At 10 and 11 p.m.

THE DUST BUNNIES - local musicians Tracy Posdzich, Mary Lou Reid and Shamim Allen - have been writing and performing together for more than five years. Their clever, original songs blend blues, country, folk and rock.

At 7 and 8 p.m.

FRANKENPINE, a Brooklyn-based band named for a cell tower posing as a conifer, lives up to its name: Modern waves radiate from the form of piney old bluegrass and country. The group's list of original songs continues to grow as its playing gets tighter between Kim Chase on singing and guitar; Matthew Chase on banjo; James Maher on mandolin, guitar and singing; Liz Bisbee on fiddle; Andy Mullen on bass, guitar and singing; and former Saranac Laker Ned P. Rauch on guitar and singing.

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At St. Luke's Episcopal Church

At 9, 10 and 11 p.m. (30-minute sets)

MOODY McCARTHY is a likable comedian who has done stand-up on "Last Comic Standing" in both Los Angeles and his hometown of New York, as well as on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and "Star Search" in 2003. He began his career in 1992 in Syracuse. His First Night act is billed as "comedy for all."

At 6 and 7 p.m.

THE RUSTIC RIDERS, a Coreys-based acoustic duo of Lisa Meissner on vocals and guitar and her husband Klaus Meissner on percussion, play original folk songs. Also on their list of influences are Celtic, Appalachian, Quebecois, Latin jazz, blues and rock 'n' roll.

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At First United Methodist Church

At 10 and 11 p.m.

AISEIRI (pronounced Ash-Eye-Ree) is the old Irish word for "revival," and the band of that name revives traditional Irish music: jigs, reels, hornpipes and airs. Local residents John Joe Reilly and Shane O'Neil play uilleann pipes and bodhran drum and are often accompanied by guitar, banjo, keyboards and vocals.

At 6 and 7 p.m.

JEFF BOYER performs a variety of kids' science shows, and "Fun with Energy" is what's planned for First Night. His carefully laid-out activities brings kids on stage for interactive demonstrations that show the laws and forces that govern the world around us.

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At BluSeed Studios

At 9 and 10 p.m.

BARB HELLER is a finger-style guitarist, songwriter and guitar teacher, but she is best known as a radio disc jockey, primarily on String Fever, a bluegrass and acoustic music show on North Country Public Radio that she's hosted every Thursday afternoon for 20 years. She also hosts the classical-music FM in the Morning Sunday mornings on NCPR and Folk Alley, a 24-hour global folk music station, on weekday evenings. She has also been a master of ceremonies for the Grey Fox and Madrid bluegrass festivals. Danny Gotham will join her at First Night.

At 7 and 8 p.m.

BIG SLYDE features virtuosic, lively acoustic tunes by four Lake Placid residents: John Doan on banjo and dobro, Mikey Portal on guitar, Christina Grant on cello and John's daughter Hannah Doan on bouzouki and singing. Tony Trischka has said they have "a fresh, good-natured approach to acoustic music. Their textures are delicious, and their compositions are inviting."

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At First Presbyterian Church

At 9 and 10 p.m.

THE TOO TALL STRING BAND plays a wide range of string-band music, especially Celtic, Appalachian, Adirondack, country and a little bluegrass. The Clinton County-based band, which has played all across the North Country and Vermont, consists of Rod Driscoll, Hap Wheeler and Bruce Lawson playing guitar, hammered dulcimer, banjo, mandolin and bass.

At 7 and 8 p.m.

CARLA ULBRICH is a writer of comical songs on such topics as Klingons, Waffle House, wedgies, medical procedures and imagining copyrights on four-letter words. The singer-guitarist is reportedly a favorite of Dr. Demento, and she recently released her fifth CD. A former school band geek from South Carolina, she now lives in New Jersey.

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At Petrova School

At 9 and 10 p.m.

THE RIVER RAT RHYTHM PROJECT STEEL DRUM BAND has performed at First Night Saranac Lake before, playing island tunes as well as contemporary arrangements for steel drums. They hail from the vicinity of Watertown and points north - the river in their name is the St. Lawrence, and their islands are the Thousand Islands.

At 6 and 7 p.m.

THE SARANAC LAKE HIGH SCHOOL JAZZ BAND consists of 19 students who rehearse three days a week at 7 a.m. - for fun, not academic credit. The group plays in Saranac Lake and the surrounding communities and regularly travels to high school competitions and festivals.

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At the Saranac Lake Free Library

At 8 and 9 p.m.

SYLVIA FLETCHER travels with the Magic Trunk, a well-traveled box inhabited by puppets she brings to life through ventriloquism. There's Chito, a wise cracking Latino opossum, an outrageous Southern bird who loves to steal the show, a genie in a bottle and more. Fletcher lives in the Albany Capital Region and visits her husband Chris' family in Tupper Lake.

At 6 and 7 p.m.

GEORGE "SPEEDY" ARNOLD, of Keeseville - on top of being a grocer, school bus driver and town assessor - has been playing guitar and singing for North Country audiences for more than 20 years: solo and with bluegrass groups Mardi Gras, the Wolverine Brothers and Three Doug Knight. At First Night he'll do songs for kids and the young at heart. He is also an illustrator and will bring children's books he has illustrated as well as sketchbooks filled with his original ink drawings of local scenes.

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At St. Bernard's Catholic Church

At 8 and 9 p.m.

THE METER MAIDS, a quartet of women who sing a cappella style, have been popular at previous First Nights, Talent Shows and Winter Carnivals in Saranac Lake and will introduce new member Carla Brassard at this year's First Night.

At 6 and 7 p.m.

ANDREW BENWARE - a former high school music teacher in Saranac Lake and Peru, and also a former organist and pianist for St. Bernard's Catholic Church in Saranac Lake - is now on the instrumental music education faculty at Ithaca College, from which he holds bachelor's and master's degrees. He grew up in the Malone area and began piano lessons at the age of 5. Although classically trained, he weaves in folk, pop and musical theater traditions. Most recently he was part of the Cayuga Vocal Ensemble (Ithaca's professional chamber choir) and was choir master for the Lake Placid Sinfonietta's production of Mozart's "Solemn Vespers."

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At Adirondack Artists' Guild

For the 7, 8 and 9 o'clock hours - art and photography presentations, including by two local photographers:

BARRY LOBDELL, a Saranac Lake photographer, focuses on natural and cultural landscapes and says he hopes someone seeing his work will feel some of the same wonder which compelled him to pause with his camera.

BURDETTE PARKS has been studying and using photography since 1964 and, as an active member of the Adirondack Artists' Guild, just opened a new show at the Guild's Saranac Lake gallery. He lives between Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake.

At 6 p.m.

A S.L.C.S. POETRY READING AND CONTEST will highlight the poetic talents of students in the Saranac Lake Central School District, from elementary to high school. Winners will be selected by Pen & Parchment, a local writers' group.

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Before the performances ...

1-2 p.m: Snow person building contest

3-4 p.m: Mask making at Petrova School cafeteria - masks may be worn in the parade at 5:15

4:30 p.m.: Interfaith service at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, also home of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church

5:30 p.m: Opening ceremonies at Riverside Park

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... and after

Midnight: Snowflake ball drop and fireworks from the Lake Flower Boat Launch on River Street

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Also note:

-During the performances, there will be hourly shuttle bus service from the Main Street parking lot (next to Sears) to BluSeed Studios, Pendragon Theatre and back. The bus leaves 15 minutes before each show and costs $1 per trip.

-Food and beverages are not permitted in any sites, expect where sold at on-site concessions.

-Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis, and all sites will be emptied before the next audience is allowed in. Many performances take place in houses of worship, so organizers ask people to pay them proper respect.

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Contact Peter Crowley at (518) 891-2600 ext. 22 or pcrowley@adirondackdailyenterprise.com.

 
 

 

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