SARANAC LAKE - First Night Saranac Lake organizers are hoping to attract more people to the event this year by bringing in a fresh lineup of talent.
For the first time in its history, the village's annual New Year's Eve celebration will feature performers that are all new to First Night Saranac Lake, a departure from recent years when the family-oriented, alcohol-free event included a combination of new performers and acts that had done First Night before.
"I looked at other First Night websites, and I see that Burlington has a lot of repeat people year after year," said First Night Saranac Lake co-founder and board member Sue Patterson. "That makes it easy, but you can get into a rut. This makes it different. We want to keep it fresh and exciting."
That doesn't mean that this year's lineup of 21 performers are all unheardof acts from faraway places. In fact, some of the groups - like the Saranac Lake-based swing sextet Crackin' Foxy and folk and blues guitarist Sven Curth - will be quite familiar to Tri-Lakes residents, having performed in many local venues over the years.
But there are some acts who will be playing in the area for what's believed to be the first time ever, including the group First Night organizers are calling their headliner, Hair of the Dog. The Albany area Irish-folk-rock group will play three sets in the Harrietstown Town Hall auditorium at 9, 10 and 11 p.m.
"We have a nice mix of local and people from out of town," Patterson said.
Saranac Lake is one of 65 First Night cities in the USA. First Night began in Boston more than 35 years ago as a family-oriented, alcohol-free celebration of the arts to welcome in the New Year.
Purchase a $12 First Night admission button to gain entry to all venues. Please wear your button on your outer clothing for quick access to venues.
Children 12 and under are admitted free and will be given special children's buttons at the venues.
First Night headquarters is in the Harrietstown Town Hall, 39 Main St.
Buttons are on sale at the following locations: Ampersound Music, Blue Line Sports, Books & Baskets, Adirondack Daily Enterprise, Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce office, Price Chopper in Lake Placid and the Lake Placid Convention and Visitor Bureau.
First Night this year will also showcase several genres of music that have never been featured at the event before, Paterson said, naming country music performers the Clem Hawkins Revival Band, who will play two sets at the town hall at 7 and 8 p.m., and rap artist Fluent, a recent Paul Smith's College graduate, who will put on two shows at 8 and 9 p.m. at the Saranac Lake Free Library.
This year's lineup also features choral, jazz, folk, roots and rock music, along with comedy acts, kids music, a storyteller, a poet, a magic act, and an African drum and dance group.
Seven years after the village hosted its first First Night, Patterson said the event has become easier to put on each year, which she said is both good and bad.
"It's almost to the point where we get a little too relaxed and we have what I call these epiphany bad moments," Patterson said. "All of a sudden, someone will say, 'Oh, my God, is that done?' I just left one of those messages on a phone at lunchtime."
Fundraising for the event is still a challenge. About 1,500 First Night buttons have been made and are being sold for $12 a piece. That will generate about half of the roughly $36,000 organizers need to put on the event. The rest is made up from donations, sponsorships and grants, which Patterson said aren't always easy to come by.
"Times are still tough," she said. "We've had some grant things dry up that we had in the past, but we're doing OK. We'll get by."
First Night organizers teamed up with the Enterprise this year to produce their program for the event. Patterson said 4,000 programs were printed, more than ever before, and are being distributed farther and wider than in the past.
"We're putting them out in restaurants and hotels," Patterson said. "There's a potential of getting more people, which in one way is good, but on the other hand, our venues are pretty fixed and we can't make them bigger."
Patterson said transportation between the 11 different venues around the community will be available through three different providers: Franklin County Public Transportation, the Tri-Lakes Center for Independent Living and Polar Express.
First Night will begin with an opening ceremony at 5:45 a.m. on the steps of the town hall. The performers will then put on 45-minute sets from 6 p.m. to midnight, followed by a ball drop on River Street and fireworks over Lake Flower.
Buttons are on sale at at Ampersound Music, Price Chopper Supermarket, Books & Baskets, Blueline Sports, the Enterprise offices, the Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce and at the Lake Placid Convention and Visitors Bureau. Children 12 and under get in free and can pickup a First Night children's button at any venue.
More information about the event, including a complete list of performers, is available at www.firstnightsaranaclake.org.