Crowds gather at First Night 2013 to ring in new year

Lilli Berardinelli didn’t hesitate after dropping a coin down the frozen wishing well on South Allen Street.

“I wished for my baby brother to come by midnight,” said the excited 6-year-old.

Her mother, Tiffany Berardinelli, isn’t in the running to deliver the annual New Year’s baby, but she is due early in 2013. Her daughters, Lilli and Mia, 8, clearly don’t want to wait, each using their coveted wish for the new year on their baby brother.

“They’ve been brainwashed,” Berardinelli said with a smile. “They are good girls.”

The family, from Gallitzin, was among the crowds who gathered in downtown State College Monday to celebrate First Night 2013.

The smell of kettle corn and authentic Austrian strudel wafted in the frigid air. Larger than life ice sculptures lined downtown streets.

Spectators had already lined up by early afternoon on New Year’s Eve to watch the ice sculptors go to work with their power tools and chisels. Before Ryan Crosby could put the finishing touches on a giant snowflake sculpture, children young and old were lining up for photos with the piece.

Crosby, a student at Penn State Altoona, has been making the ice sculptures since he was a teen. His stepfather, Ernie DiMartino, owner of DiMartino Ice Co., might have something to do with that.

“When winter came around he asked if I wanted to learn how to ice carve,” Crosby said. “I came up here and kind of fell in love with it. I look forward to this every year since.”

So do the many children who take a ride down the Russian ice slide constructed by the company. “It was fun,” decided 9-year-old Dawson Lee after he flew down the icy incline and into a waiting pile of snow.

Elsewhere at the celebration, hundreds shared their New Year’s resolutions on an annual sculpture on South Allen Street. Some seek self-improvement: “be less shy”; “take better care of myself.” Others want to make the world a better place for everyone else: “work harder for peace around us”; “be nice by my boss.”

Kristen Hessler, 21, wants to start doing the little things.

“Every year I have a different theme,” she said.

“This year it’s to be more giving to people. I have a calendar, and I’ll do a nice thing every day.”

How to start? By calling friends and family on birthdays and giving blood every eight weeks.

“We’ll see how long I can last,” she said.

Hessler’s friend, Laura Gabrosvsek, has a much simpler resolution: Don’t tear a ligament in her knee, something the State College native did twice in 2012.

“2012 was unlucky,” she said.

“But 2013 is going to be a good year.”