By Jelane A. Kennedy
The temperature was at 11 degrees at 1st Night, with a light snow falling. A night that layers were needed. Snow boots, long underwear and everyone wearing their wool finery. But it didn’t matter that it was cold as the 70 performers warmed our hearts with live music. I can’t think of a better way to start the New Year with such a smorgasbord. It each year so different but the result has been the same.
This was the fourth time in five years we have attended first night. We now have a ritual to our attendance. It begins with starting our packing process. Eileen takes the lead with packing all the little extras and I pack the vehicle. She’s good at making everywhere feel like home. Once the weather was known that determined how many layers of clothing would be needed. We now buy our event button in advance of the evening. The button gives entrance into each venue.
The first two years we got our buttons on New Years Eve and did not have much time to review the artist or venues. The first year was totally winging it. We stayed at the Hampton Inn downtown Saratoga Spring; in the middle of it all, we thought that would work well and it was great that evening as we walked around to have home base near by, but forget about any sleep that night, the hotel rocked all night. We were fried the next morning due to lack of sleep. (We discovered a month later when it happened again at the same hotel that it was one of the party hotels in town). The second year we decided to try a hotel more outside of the downtown, but with local transportation available, the Comfort Inn & Suites was near the bus line. That year they had a package that included two tickets with the hotel room. We have continued to stay at the Comfort Inn even though they don’t do the package anymore. We have found using the hotel shuttle into Saratoga works great and we have also taken advantage of the CDTA bus to take us back near the hotel. Although it has not been perfectly quiet they have done a great job of helping to keep the noise down so that we at least get some sleep and aren’t so wiped out the next day.
The evening of First Night starts with an early dinner that we usually bring with us so that we can spend most of our time participating in the event. What was nice about Saratoga First Night was that the event was so well organized and it was easy to get around to the venues. Plus the variety of music was amazing, gospel, Celtic, 60’s-70’s hits, dance music, classical, etc. We always find a new group that we enjoy. Listening to live music was so different than listening via electronics, there was the vibe in the room as people sway to the music each person being transported, some performers ask the audience to sing together with the band, there was the sensory feelings of music as the notes touch your body and send the rhythm beyond hearing into each cell. It fills me in such a different way.
As the night progressed there was the heat visiting each venue tied with the cooling night air. People bustling down the streets onto the next performance they wanted to hear. You can tell the veteran participants as they have their favorite music and venues that they visit, knowing directly how to travel without maps. For us out-of-town folks it usually requires me to pull out our map to consult our plan. We typically pick several musicians we may want to see in each time slot so we can go how the spirit moves us that night. Usually at some point during the night we stop by Bruggurers Bagels for a snack and to regroup.
One of my favorite parts of the evening was the fireworks over Congress Park. It is always so amazing to see the rockets sailing through the cold brittle air. They are always so beautiful, the colors seem brighter and the energy of the night hopeful for the New Year! The splashes of reds, blues, and greens mix with white light. In that moment it’s hard to feel cold.
The next morning the New York State Park system sponsored 1st hike at several State Parks. When we got up we headed to Moreau State Park. The park was nestled into the foothills of the Adirondacks with the lake surrounded by mountains. We had not visited this park before. We missed the organized hike since I was unclear about the time or place to meet, but we were treated to a wonderful hike on our own. We picked up a map and followed a trail that leads us to the campground loops.
We visited the beautiful warming hut that they open each day from 9-4. This was the site of our first picnic of 2014. The building was one of the original cottages on the lake when the Park took over the property. Over the years it had been used for storage and other things beginning to deteriorate. Then a couple years ago the Park decided to save the building and rehabbed it to be a warming hut with a beautiful fireplace and a couple of seating areas. The sky was bight azure as we hiked around the lake, air was crisp and fresh like after a storm. We were surprised at the number of folks hiking and ice fishing that day. It felt like the perfect winter day.
The close of 2013 and the start of 2014 could not have been better! May the New Year be full of blessings for all of you.
(c) 2014 Jelane a. Kennedy