‘Old-fashioned community celebration’: What’s happening at First Night State College?

Rocco DeDonato rings the first bells during First Night State College Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017 in downtown State College.
Rocco DeDonato rings the first bells during First Night State College Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017 in downtown State College. Centre Daily Times, file

With Penn State students away for winter break, First Night State College offers a quiet, family-friendly New Year’s Eve for locals.

The celebration is organized by the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, and executive director Rick Bryant sees the festival as an unconventional take on a day usually full of revelry.

“First Night is an old-fashioned community celebration of New Year’s Eve. It is alcohol-free and super family-oriented for activities,” Bryant said.

Even with a large share of State College residents out of town, First Night State College anticipates around 10,000-12,000 visitors this year.

As in previous years, the 100 block of South Allen Street will display more than 90 ice sculptures until 6 p.m. or an earlier melt.

Locals hoping to get a jump start on their resolutions may seek the 17th iteration of the First Night State College 5K Resolution Run. Starting at 6:30 p.m., runners donning costumes are expected to begin at the corner of College Avenue and Allen Street.

Those not inclined to run may enjoy the Grand Procession beginning at the same time at St. Andrews Episcopal Church on 208 W. Foster Ave. The parade includes communal drumming and scores of papier mache creatures for children to wield.

Attendees seeking entertainment should purchase a 2019 First Night State College button for $10, which grants access to all indoor performances throughout the day. The button offers a streamlined experience only possible in such a relaxed, communal environment.

“Technology-wise, there is nothing easier than just opening up your jacket and showing someone at the gate your button. They’re transferable. We don’t have barcode readers or anything like that,” Bryant said.

Residents seeking to purchase a button may visit The Corner Room, Pegula Ice Arena, The State Theatre and many other retail locations in town.

Indoor entertainment at First Night State College is diverse. Besides conventional music acts, button-holders will have access to three variety performances scattered throughout the day.

Bob and Les offer a tandem routine that demonstrates a knack for sight gags, magic and comedy. In a similar vein, Alan Sands will be performing his comedic hypnotism in the Community Room of the State College Municipal Building at 5 p.m., 6:45 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Local comedy troupe, Happy Valley Improv, will be showing their talents in The State Theatre Attic. Families should seek to attend the 7:30 p.m. performance, as the 10 p.m. showing will contain adult content.

Music fans of all predilections will enjoy the performances available with a First Night button.

At 8:30 p.m., classical group Camerata Amistad will perform in St. Andrew’s episcopal Church. A rather lively experience can be found at the Days Inn Penn State, where the Keystone Swing Society will be dancing away at both 8 and 10 p.m.

Natascha and the Spy Boys will be putting on a cabaret performance at 6 p.m. in the State College Presbyterian Church.

Attendees can concretely set goals for the coming year at the resolution sculptures in the lobby of the State College Municipal Building. Visitors may pin their goals to a number of sculptures.

One of those sculptures, known as State College’s Burning Man, brings attached resolutions along in a blaze of glory. The entire festival wraps up at 11 p.m. with the burning of this effigy.

“We bring him over to Sidney Friedman Park and just light him up. It is definitely something different,” Bryant said.

For more information, visit firstnightstatecollege.com.