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First Night Saratoga: A New Year’s Eve Spectacular in Upstate New York

Saratoga Springs, New York, is located less than 200 miles from Boston, New York City, and Montreal, making it an ultimate East Coast destination. The city has over 26,000 residents, and plenty of major attractions including the Saratoga Performing Arts Center and a downtown area filled with shops, restaurants, and more.  


First Night Saratoga is widely considered Upstate New York’s top New Year’s Eve celebration. The event has been a mainstay in the region since it began 21 years ago. Event organizers anticipate that roughly 15,000 people will attend the 2016/2017 edition. Patrons will encounter a vibrant family-friendly celebration for all ages and backgrounds. Attendees will encounter over 70 different music acts, playing at over 30 different downtown venues, and there are plenty of other activities taking place including a 5K run. The night concludes with a countdown and spectacular fireworks show. We got the opportunity to interview Alix Jones First Night Director & Development Associate, to talk about this all-ages New Year's Eve spectacular.


RAL: How long has the event been running and how many annual participants do you draw?

AJ: This is First Night's 21st anniversary, although this will be Saratoga Arts 7th year of presenting the event. We draw about 15,000 people to downtown Saratoga Springs for New Year's Eve.


RAL: What is the typical demographic makeup of the event? Children? Families? Couples?

AJ: The demographic is mixed, but includes people who would not want to limit themselves to bars and clubs on New Year's Eve.  


RAL: What makes this event unique?

AJ: This is the oldest and largest NYE celebration between NYC and Montreal. I think it's unique in that it's affordable and can equally entertain kids through adults. It is an alcohol-free event, meaning that none of our venues serve alcohol or allow alcoholic beverages on the premises. That doesn't mean people can't visit bars between shows, but it underscores the all-inclusive nature of the celebration. The event reminds people that it is possible to go out and have fun on this holiday, safely and responsibly.


A Button is your ticket to all of our venues throughout the night. Buttons cost $20 and are available for purchase at a variety of locations, which are on our website including Price Choppers, Stewarts Shops, and Adirondack Trusts.  

This year is Saratoga Arts' 30th Anniversary, and in honor of that important milestone we are partnering with Price Chopper to offer a discounted rate on buttons.  At Price Chopper locations, Saratoga Arts, and online we will be selling buttons for $15 from December 1st through December 25th.  After December 25th our discount ends, and buttons will cost $20 through New Year's Eve. So come and visit us early!


RAL: Take me through any special activities on the day of the event.   

AJ: People who are athletic should consider registering for the Annual First Night 5k Roadrace. The Roadrace hosts 1,500 runners and sells out early each year. It starts at the Skidmore campus at 5:30 pm and there are shower trucks available afterward. Participants also have access to free transportation downtown after the race via CDTA bus service, so you can leave your car in place if you like. When you register, you can also choose to purchase a First Night button for $5 off the selling price.  


RAL: Will there be any guest appearances?

AJ: There are 70 different music acts in over 30 downtown venues. Musicians rotate on the hour from 6 pm until midnight. The headliners are local talent that have made a splash on the national scene including Wild Adriatic, Sirsy, and The Figgs. We have a dance hall that will host Alex Torres and His Latin Orchestra and NitroJive. There will be comedians, magicians, tarot card readers, a hypnotist, a world-renowned mentalist, and a sword swallower who's fresh off of America's Got Talent. For the youngest First Night goers we have Alpacas, a bird of prey demonstration, a comedic vaudeville circus act, and hands-on art activities like origami and comic book creation.  At midnight, join us in Congress Park for a countdown and spectacular fireworks display.


RAL: What can an attendee expect to find for local lodging?

AJ: Union Gables is one of our longtime event sponsors, and they are walking distance from downtown. The Pavilion Grand offers upscale accommodations and again is right in the thick of things. All hotel sponsors are on the sidebar of our website, and many will be offering a package deal that includes items such as dinner vouchers or First Night buttons.   


RAL: Does this drive business to your local economy?

AJ: Yes, we see a massive boost regarding direct and indirect economic impact, tourism, taxes, and jobs.   


RAL: Does the event support a special cause in the community? (School funds, etc.)

AJ: The event is presented by and supports Saratoga Arts, whose mission is to enrich the region by cultivating a vibrant arts community and by ensuring that the arts are accessible to all. Our goal is to be the regional leader for promoting and developing community arts.  


RAL: Why should people come to your event?

AJ: First Night Saratoga offers a night full of entertainment for its attendees. Individuals who participate can choose the events they want to see and stay for as long as they want. You can step out for dinner and come back again afterward for more.  It is a fun, stress-free experience and an excellent way to get to see the true colors of Saratoga Springs.


For more information about First Night Saratoga, please visit their website.