The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

December 29, 2012

Oneonta's First Night is too good to miss

By Cassandra Miller
The Daily Star

---- — New Year’s Eve has been a disappointment since adulthood. No matter how many sequins are worn or glasses of champagne drank, the night never lives up to its Dick Clark-come-Ryan Seacrest hype.

Last year, as Cee Lo Green butchered “Imagine” during Rockin’ New Year’s Eve (does anyone else remember the outrage over his lyrical license?), I was falling asleep on my friends’ couch. “Oh, it’s 2012? And there’s no more shrimp? I’m out.”

But when I was younger, New Year’s Eve had a certain magic. One of the New Year’s Eves near the end of the century, when I was 13, my friends and I came into “the city” for one of Oneonta’s first First Night celebrations. It was the first time I hadn’t spent New Year’s Eve with my grandmother and parents (OK, my dad was trailing behind). It was an adventure.

We found a discarded shopping cart near the old armory and pushed each other around the neighborhood, scooting between downtown destinations. Families walking around the streets. Music being played. Fireworks. It was exciting. There was energy in the air. It was special.

This year, I’m looking forward to New Year’s Eve again, because for the first time, I’ve helped plan Oneonta’s First Night celebration as one of the board members of First Night Oneonta. This is the third year the group has organized the city’s family-friendly celebration, and it’s running like a “well-oiled machine,” as captain of the board David Hayes would say (the board really refers to him as our captain).

Hayes has been working for months securing funding for the $40,000 event, and corralling other volunteer board members to make sure all the pieces are in place for Monday.

Carol Mandigo has made arrangements for Foothills Performing Arts and Civic Center, where the hour-long parade that starts at 4 p.m. will end, to be a center of children’s entertainment so parents can enjoy the more than 25 musical acts in 18 venues within five city blocks (this last part is a catch phrase from Will Lunn, who almost single-handedly organized those more than 25 performances).

Board members for the past few months have been reserving porta-potties, distributing First Night buttons ($15 each, not necessary for those 12 and younger), securing a 10 p.m. fireworks display, organizing volunteers (more are needed!), making sure landlords will be turning on heat at venues and everything else that needs to be done.

These people are part of what I love so much about Oneonta. They are volunteering their time and energy to create something memorable and inexpensive for the community. They want to give the community something fun to do that doesn’t revolve around champagne or sequins, although the latter are welcome.

First Night is a family-friendly non-alcoholic event that brings together musical entertainment, dance troops, face-painting, clowns, giant puppets and fireworks for one night as a gift to the community.

Monday night, I’ll be checking and selling buttons at the Crystal Palace Barbershop, one of those 18 wonderful venues that has volunteered to be a part of First Night. I’m looking forward to listening to Skyani and the Hop City Hellcats there, and also wandering to the Oneonta Theatre to see the Catskill Symphony Orchestra, and to the Unitarian Universalist Church to hear Driftwood, and wherever else in those magical five city blocks I can get to, by foot or shopping cart.

Buttons will be available at the entrance to venues Monday evening. A full schedule of events is at, where those interested in volunteering can fill out a form to help out Monday.

CASSANDRA MILLER is the former editor in chief of the O-Town Scene and a former editor at The Daily Star.