Weekender

Many ways to ring in 2016 with First Night

Twins Nyla, left, and Jayla Williams ring the New Year’s bells in Sidney Freedman Park in 2014 during First Night State College.
Twins Nyla, left, and Jayla Williams ring the New Year’s bells in Sidney Freedman Park in 2014 during First Night State College. Centre Daily Times, file

There’s one night in State College to see giant ice sculptures, listen to any number of musical acts, learn to play the ukelele, enjoy a delicious meal and then work it off with a 5K run.

To fit it all into First Night State College, you’ll need to make more than a night of it.

Now in its 22nd year, First Night State College keeps the spirit of the national First Night effort alive by providing family-friendly fun in lieu of alcohol-focused revelry. Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts Executive Director Rick Bryant said the event has grown in footprint — amount of churches, theaters and public buildings where events take place — and in terms of audience.

It’s sort of a cafeteria — people can pick and choose here and there what events they’re interested in.

Rick Bryant, Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts executive director

“I think it gives people a chance to experience State College as a small town, without the students,” Bryant said. “Not that the students aren’t great, but it’s a unique experience to go downtown and see adults, seniors and families without all the students.”

Probably the biggest draw at the event each year, Bryant said, is the display of ice sculptures that have been with the event since the beginning. Visitors are able to see sculptors in action along pedestrian-only South Allen Street and view finished ice pieces on display in front of downtown businesses and churches in the One Block Ice Sculpture Exhibit. Other top draws are the 5K Resolution Run, featuring as many as 1,000 runners, and ice skating at the Pegula Ice Arena, for which CATA bus service runs to the rink from the Beaver Avenue stop at Schlow Centre Region Library.

Heritage Brass, Pepper Lotus Belly Dance Troupe, comedian Adam Ace, Feats of Strength and Archie Blue are just a few of the performances that will take place throughout the day at various locations.

“The slate of performers, especially the variety and vaudeville performers, are different every year,” Bryant said.

Like summer’s Arts Fest, a button is your access pass to most First Night performances and workshops. Single buttons cost $10 and can be purchased at a variety of retailers around the area. Children under 12 do not need a button if accompanied by a button-wearing adult.

“It’s sort of a cafeteria — people can pick and choose here and there what events they’re interested in,” Bryant said. “You can make your day what you want it to be.”

New this year is a ukulele workshop at the State College Presbyterian Church, and First Night buttons also give access to the Penn State Lady Lions game against Northwestern at the Bryce Jordan Center.

After the game, Lady Lions coach Coquese Washington will be the official starter of the 5K Resolution Run.

Bryant said that visitors should dress for the weather and come prepared with their new year resolutions. You’ll have several chances to put them to good use, including with Fire Sculptures. Say goodbye to the neglected or abandoned resolutions of 2015 with a Burning Man-style sculpture that goes up in flames around 11:15 p.m. in Sidney Friedman Park.

Jessica McAllister: 814-231-4617, @JMcAllisterCDT

IF YOU GO

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