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A first peek at First Night:
Press conference unveils poster and plans for 15th annual First Night Saratoga

By PATRICK H. DONGES, The Saratogian
Published: Thursday, December 2, 2010


SARATOGA SPRINGS — City residents escaped the windy weather Wednesday morning for a preview of the musical, visual and interactive performances set to take place across the city on New Year’s Eve as a part of the 15th annual First Night Saratoga.

Local songstress Holly Huebner, who will be performing in the window of the 80 West boutique on Broadway, gave those at the press conference a taste of the more than 70 performers scheduled throughout the evening.

"Outside of Times Square, we’re it," said event coordinator Maureen Duda, describing the event as the largest family-friendly New Year’s Eve celebration in upstate New York.

The theme of this year’s event is "Live Creatively," personified in the addition of interactive art installations to the traditional performances and other events, such as the midnight fireworks in Congress Park and the First Night Saratoga 5K run.

"At first, I was afraid of it," said First Night poster artist Sharon Bolton, of Ambrosino Design, when asked about how the theme attributed to her inspiration for this year’s poster. "But then I just decided to relax and let it come to me," she continued, describing the process of using a digital tablet and imaging software to create the image — a first for her in creating the iconic posters.

What began as a photo of Bolton’s 17-year-old daughter was transformed digitally with 100 different layers into the image of a woman with streaks of color and the silhouettes of various performers springing up from out of a flowing head of hair. "Personally, I really like this one," Bolton said of the design.

Headlining the evening’s performances will be The Singing Anchors, presented by Fort Salem Theater, a cabaret-style performance trio composed of local television anchors Jerry Gretzinger of CBS 6, and Jessica Layton and Benita Zahn of WNYT 13.

This year also marks the first that the expanded Saratoga Springs City Center will be used as a venue and the first time Saratoga Arts will present the event, which had formerly been organized by the YMCA of Saratoga.

Saratoga Arts Executive Director Joel Reed said the transition of planning and preparation duties between the organizations has been smooth since the reigns were handed over in February. "We’re very happy to take it over," he said, adding that he thought the event was a good fit for Saratoga Arts’ mission of giving people chances to experience art both as observers and creators. "We wanted to carry that into this event," he said, when asked about the interactive exhibitions at the City Center and Empire State College’s Union Avenue headquarters.

"I think everyone is going to have a fantastic time," said event organizer Jackie Marchand, describing the Brooklyn-based "ghost train" exhibition in which participants will have a chance to tag a simulated New York City subway car with digital paint sprayed from "hacked aerosol cans."

The graffiti simulator will be joined at the City Center by another Brooklyn-based collective; "Band of Bicycles" will allow participants to create dynamic light art, spin art, and fruit smoothies all using pedal power produced by devices created from recycled bicycles.

Empire State College will host local artist Anne Diggory’s "Endless Hudson River Landscape," an endless panorama of Hudson River scenes that anyone can add to.

As in years past, the Capital District Transportation Authority (CDTA) will provide free shuttle service, included in the price of admission, to transport revelers around the city to participating venues. "It’s not often that you get to drive buses full of happy, laughing, joyous people all night long," said CDTA Executive Director Carm Basile, saying drivers look forward to the event each year.

While the transition and planning of performances has been finalized, the event will require 75 additional volunteers, according to volunteer coordinator Maria Panayotou. "We would always love to have extra," she said, "but we need 75 to fly.

Those who would like to volunteer can contact Saratoga Arts at 584-4132 or e-mail

Tickets to the event, sold in the form of buttons featuring the 2011 poster design, are available for $15 each from Saratoga Arts on Broadway, the Saratoga Springs branch of the YMCA, Price Chopper stores throughout the Capital Region, Saratoga County Stewart’s Shops and Crafter’s Gallery at 427 Broadway.

Buttons also may be ordered online at and picked up at Saratoga Arts up as late as New Year’s Eve. Children younger than 5 will be admitted free.

Fort Salem Theater
© 2007