SARATOGA SPRINGS - Once again, the best buy of the year comes on the last day of the year.
That’s when First Night of Saratoga Springs offers the opportunity to see over 80 performers at more than 50 venues in downtown Saratoga Springs - all for the price of a $15 button.
This year First Night is organized by Saratoga Arts who has selected the theme "Living Creatively" for the event. Since the mission of Saratoga Arts is to bring the spirit of the arts to Saratoga this is a perfect way to demonstrate to the community the talent that works in the area.
Though this is her final First Night, Maureen Duda is coordinating the event as she has for the past 14 years.
She believes the excitement from this years event will come from the emphasis on interactive visual exhibits. She is especially thrilled with the appearance of Ghost Train, a Brooklyn-based organization that came to prominence at this years Burning Man festival.
They will be at the downtown City Center with a digital exhibit that permits people to become graffiti artists and paint a New York City subway. The difference is instead of paint the graffiti is produced by using a stream of digital light that will mark the images on the life-sized subway cars. "I think this will grab everyone’s attention," she says.
Meanwhile inside the City Center the music will be competing for that attention.
Headlining the entertainment is Fort Salem Theater presents The Singing Anchors, composed of three local television anchors - Benita Zahn, and Jessica Layton of Newschannel 13 and Jerry Gretzinger of Channel 6.
All three are veteran theater performers and this cabaret act should offer an engaging show. Singing Anchors will perform two one-hour blocks at 7 and 9 p.m. Along with them on the stage of City Center is the area’s hottest new band Funk Evolution with shows at 8, 10 and 11.
Duda is quick to point out that there is more to First Night than is at the City Center. In fact, this year the event will be more compact and less spread out.
"People were spending more time getting from place to place on buses than they were attending entertainment," she said.
This year they have added a couple of sites at Empire State College to make up for the loss at the Skidmore campus, the Beekman area and other sites.
Several years ago to show off the charms of the downtown merchants and restaurants they came up with the concept of a window walk along Broadway where entertainers perform inside windows to the delight of people on the sidewalks.
Duda says the concept is so successful a number of people don’t even purchase buttons and just walk Broadway.
Duda hastens to add that there is virtually no limit to the amount of free entertainment available and is especially high on The Spirit of Johnny Cash performed by Harold Ford with Laura Lucy doing June Carter Cash at the Lake Avenue Elementary School.
She encourages people to move around but points out that at St. Peter’s Church both the Saratoga Youth Orchestra and the Racing City Chorus will perform at the venue.
Next door at Parish Hall the Ramblin’ Jug Stompers add a little diversity.
There is entertainment for all ages and members of the family but the best is the fireworks that take place at 11:30 and bring you into 2011.