First Night rocks in the new year

SARANAC LAKE – Cold temperatures and steady snowfall didn’t deter local residents and visitors from hitting the streets of this village Tuesday night for the eighth annual First Night New Year’s Eve celebration.

The alcohol-free event provided entertainment for all ages at a dozen venues across the village, starting at 6 p.m. and continuing until the new year was rung in at midnight by dropping a glowing snowflake and launching fireworks over Lake Flower.

“I think it’s a great event,” said Jeff Dickson, a Saranac Lake resident and First Night volunteer. “It’s wonderful to have something to do like this. You can bring your kids and not be afraid that they’ll encounter something that will be inappropriate. It’s just great to have it.”

Dickson spoke with the Enterprise as rockabilly quartet the Lustre Kings, First Night’s headlining act, performed the first of three sets at the Harrietstown Town Hall. The band had originally been booked for just two sets but agreed to a third after another group canceled at the last minute.

The lineup of First Night talent, as in years past, featured something for just about anyone, from roots and folk singer-songwriters like Heather Styka and Putnam Smith to the thumping rhythms of the African-inspired beats of Wulaba drum and Soma Beats to the soulful sounds of the Plattsburgh State University Gospel Choir. There was plenty for kids to enjoy, too, including the Saranac Lake-based clown act LoonWoorks, Brent McCoy’s circus and comedy act and ventriloquist Sylvia Fletcher.

“It’s different every year,” said Kathy Merritt, who’s been to every Saranac Lake First Night since the event started and has volunteered at a half-dozen. “You get to go see different music, comedians, ventriloquists. I’ve been to lots of things already tonight. Driftwood was awesome at the Pendragon (Theatre), and seeing Johnna (MacDougall) and the women (of Soma Beats) dance was excellent.”

Many venues were packed. A final tally on the number of First Night attendees wasn’t available yet. Organizers had expected 1,200 to 1,500 people to attend, which would put it on on par with prior years.

Temperatures held steady in the single digits above zero throughout much of the night. A steady snowfall coated the streets and sidewalks as people moved between venues, either on foot, in their cars or using a shuttle bus provided by the organizers.

“The weather doesn’t bother me. This is Saranac Lake,” said Ron Philpott, a former Saranac Laker who now lives in Cooperstown but came back to see several friends perform at First Night. “You either deal with the weather, or you move on.

“I’m having a great time,” Philpott added. “Downtown is happening. First Night’s always been good here in Saranac Lake.”

Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or