By Denise Richardson
The Daily Star
---- — The Catskill Symphony Orchestra and a display of raptors are among newly scheduled events for First Night Oneonta.
“It will be five hours of nonstop exuberant entertainment,’’ said David Hayes, chairman of the local First Night Board of Directors. About 100 performing entities will appear in 20 venues downtown, he said, and programs also will include educational activities, artwork shows, a poetry reading and a exhibit of wild birds.
The Catskill Symphony Orchestra concert will be in the Oneonta Theatre, 47 Chestnut St., at 5 p.m. Dec. 31, after which performances will start at the top of each of the next four hours.
First Night Oneonta is licensed with the national First Night organization, which promotes alcohol-free, family friendly celebrations on New Year’s Eve, Hayes said Thursday.
The significant role of First Night Oneonta is best measured by attendance in the past two years, signifying a successful reincarnation from a few troubled years previously, Mayor Dick Miller said. The mayor, who isn’t involved in organizing the event, said the members and supporters of the First Night board have “hit nothing but home runs.’’
Hayes said this year’s schedule is filled with musicians and groups performing a variety of styles. The organization continues efforts to raise funds toward its $40,000 budget for the event, and to sign up volunteers to work at the parade and venues. Volunteers earn an admission button for two hours of work, he said.
Half of the budget goes toward paying performers, Hayes said, and the other half of revenues pays for sound technicians, liability, fireworks and other expenses. Fireworks at 10:15 p.m. will be launched from Neahwa Park, with viewing recommended from the top level of the municipal parking garage, he said.
Organizers seek about 70 people to fill a need for 100 volunteers, Hayes said. To sign up, volunteers may fill out a form online at www.firstnightoneonta.com or leave a message at 432-7265.
About $20,000 has been raised, Hayes said, and sales of buttons are estimated to bring in $12,000 to $15,000. First Night buttons cost $15 and allow admission to performance venues, he said, but some activities will be free.
Funding applications with foundations are pending and will be key to making the budget, Hayes said. The board is seeking creative ways to raise money, and this year organizers are issuing donors of $100 buttons identifying them in the “Circle of One Hundred’’ benefactors.
“Nothing happens without money,’’ Hayes said. “The need is still very much there.’’
Hayes said the First Night Oneonta board has evolved into a year-round presenting and fundraising group. First Night had roles in presenting activities for July Fourth and the Labor Day balloon festival, he said. The recent screenings of classic films at the Oneonta Theatre have been a fundraisers for First Night events, Hayes said.
The Dady Brothers, Walt Michael and some other musicians and performers are re-appearing on the schedule. But to interest a spectrum of listeners, the music genres were broadened this year, Hayes said. The styles scheduled include Indonesian, bagpipe, polka (with space for dancing), Broadway, jazz, classical music and more, he said.
“The last thing we want to do is become repetitive and predictable,’’ Hayes said. “Everyone can find a home at First Night.’’