First Night State College celebrates 20th New Year’s Eve

This year marks the 20th First Night celebration in State College, and Executive Director Rick Bryant has been around for most of the Resolution 5K races and carvings of ice sculptures downtown.

“It really is touching how the community embraces it,” he said. “Everything in State College is town and gown, but this is really town, because Penn State is closed.”

The annual New Year’s Eve event takes place throughout the downtown and is popular for the ice sculptures — some interactive — music and art events, food and its focus on family in an alcohol-free environment.

Outdoor events are free, and a 2014 First Night button gives visitors general admission to all indoor performances and provides funding for the event. Buttons are $10 each, or four for $35 on Dec. 24 only. Kids 5 and under attend for free with a button-wearing adult.

Bryant said buttons will go on sale in early December and will be available at locations downtown, on campus and at other Centre Region locations.

The special four-packs will be available at 4 p.m. on Dec. 24 only at the Centre County/Penn State Visitors’ Center and the Penn State Federal Credit Union branches on North Atherton Street and near Bellefonte.

A feature event this year is public ice skating at the new Pegula Ice Arena on University Drive. Visitors can skate every hour between 5 and 10 p.m. and skates are available to rent for $1.75. The Centre Area Transportation Authority will provide shuttles from College Avenue.

“The community will see what it’s like to skate with the big kids,” Bryant said.

The event also offers performances and workshops for kids, and resolution sculptures. Bryant said two new such sculptures will be on the street this year, and will be surprises for attendees.

A volunteer when First Night began, Bryant has worked for the event since 1999. While he’s not a runner, he said he loves to watch the approximately 1,000 runners participate in the 5K.

“Any time you put a kid in a Speedo, you remember it,” he said, thinking of memorable participants. “And then there’s the guy who carries a concrete block. Any time you put someone in a fireman uniform — that’s heavy. That’s an intense way to run a 5K.”

Walkers also are welcome to participate.

Bryant said some new musical groups will play during the day and night, as organizers try to provide a variety of genres.

A German-American comedian, Hilby, will perform, as well as Johnstown native Jonathan Burns, a comedian and contortionist who Bryant said is popular.

“Jonathan Burns is one of the performers people stop me in the grocery line to tell me they like him,” he said. “That’s pretty neat.”

For more information on First Night and the various events, visit www.firstnightstatecollege.com.