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January 2, 2013

First Night brings flames, fireworks

Flame-throwers, music-makers, dancers and fireworks were among highlights in Oneonta First Night’s party to ring in the New Year.

Classical, folk, Irish, Broadway and jazz were among musical genres presented by local and out-of-town performers. A display of raptors, activities for children and performances by dancers and puppets were part of Monday night’s program.

For the first time, the Catskill Symphony Orchestra performed, and its concert of seasonal and lighter fare was in the historic Oneonta Theatre on Chestnut Street. About 600 listeners attended, officials said.

Judi LeBaron of Sidney said she and her husband, Jim, hadn’t been to First Night Oneonta before.

“We came because of this orchestra — I’m in awe,” she said. Their concert itinerary also included a concert by the Catskill Valley Wind Ensemble.

First Night Oneonta was among like-events held in more than 200 cities worldwide, the organizers’ website said, and the festival is planned “to bring in the New Year in an uplifting, alcohol-free atmosphere.’’

Locally, the schedule offered revelers performances between 5 and 10 p.m. Monday. As a downtown thermometer reported the temperature at 37 degrees, a 4 p.m. parade kicked off First Night with larger-than-life-sized puppets, dancers, flame-throwers and dignitaries, and a fireworks display closed the event, with the organizational bookends each lasting about 20 minutes.

David Hayes, chairman of the First Night Oneonta Board of Directors, estimated attendance at between 2,000 and 3,000 people based on button sales. Fundraising efforts and sales of admission buttons, costing $10 or $15, made the $45,000 budget, Hayes said, and he credited the ``fantastic’’ success of the event to work by the volunteer board.

More than 35 presenting groups offered programs at about 20 venues, and Main Street was closed to vehicular traffic during First Night activities. Hayes said not many people milled about on the street but the venues were ``packed.’’

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