Welcoming 2015 in American style

First Posted: 12/1/2014

SCRANTON — Revelers will welcome 2015 with lots of patriotism during the year’s First Night Scranton event, held New Year’s Eve at various downtown venues and headquartered at The Mall at Steamtown, 300 Lackawanna Ave.

“I wanted to do something that was relevant,” said event co-chairman Damian the Magician , regarding the selection of this year’s “America” theme, “and I wanted to do something that was about the story of the American people. I didn’t want to do anything like a Fourth of July theme, I wanted a salute to us as a people — without any references to politics or anything that would be controversial — just about our basic principals and values.”

First Night Scranton is an annual alcohol-free celebration for families and people of all ages, featuring an array of activities and entertainers. Highlights include live music, dancing, interactive performances, juggling, horse-drawn carriage rides and more, with several of the performers hailing from the Abingtons area, as well as the greater Northeastern Pennslyvania region and beyond.

The festivities will kick off at 3 p.m. with family BINGO in the Food Court at The Mall at Steamtown.

General admission buttons are $10, and can be obtained in advance at customer service at the mall, Boscov’s stores in Scranton and Wilkes-Barre and all Gerrity’s supermarkets, as well as on the day of the event at the First Night Headquarters on the second floor of the mall. Buttons for senior citizens and those with military identification are $5, and are available only on the day of the event at the First Night Headquarters. Children under five years of age gain free admission.

According to co-chair Doug Smith, many of the performers and groups plan to incorporate red, white and blue themes into their acts, and the musicians will include various types of American music in their sets — everything from Dixieland, which includes early 1900s, to a swing band, to Americana music.

“We’re going to do a time-line from early 1900s up to now,” he said, “and try to have a sampling of each era, so it’ll be pretty diverse.”

Project Manager Paige Balitski agreed, adding, “It will be nicely diverse this year.”

Balitski said the committee is also working on obtaining some iconic characters, such as Uncle Sam or the Statue of Liberty to stroll around throughout the evening for photo opportunities.

“The whole thing is intended not to be something heavy, but something very light, very fun,” said Damian the Magician, who is also a performer for the event. “And I think one of the nice things is, there’s something for everybody. A lot of the acts are chosen for certain age groups, but every age is covered. And in an age where people are constantly looking at their cell phones, this is a great opportunity for families to be able to share something together. That’s one of the main reasons I like an event like this, because it makes people do it together and they pay attention together, so it’s a lot of fun.”

The magician said one performance he personally looks forward to this year is the Gerard Mayer Band.

“I’m really particularly excited about it,” he said, “because I’m very familiar with his [Mayer’s] work, and he’s a great showman, a great entertainer and a terrific vocalist. I think he’s a perfect marriage with the event.”

Two new venues are added to the lineup this year: The Scranton Cultural Center at the Masonic Temple, 420 North Washington Ave. and The Leonard, 335 Adams Ave. Other venues, in addition to the mall, include: Northern Light Espresso Bar and Café, 536 Spruce St.; AFA Gallery, 514 Lackawanna Ave.; Courthouse Square; the firehouse, 518 Mulberry St. and Elm Park Church, 712 Linden St.

Free parking is available at the mall, and some of the permanent food vendors there will be open for business, as well as some food trucks, which will set up around Courthouse Square.

Smith said he and the First Night Scranton Association are grateful to the many volunteers and sponsors of the event. Tobyhanna Credit Union is sponsoring the fireworks show, which will be set off at midnight in view of Courthouse Square. Magdon Music is supplying professional sound systems for a discounted rate at each of the venues. The City of Scranton works with the committee to help keep the event safe. And a crew of 25 to 30 volunteers helps the evening flow smoothly.

Damian the Magician said additional volunteers are always welcome, and anyone interested in helping out can call him at 570-344-1967 or e-mail firstnightscranton@gmail.com.

“I think it’s wonderful to get involved on a volunteer basis,” he said, “because you get in, you enjoy the whole evening and you’re doing something good. The whole evening is about doing something good for the community.”

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