First thing's first: An insider's guide to First Night Saranac Lake

There's never a dull moment in Saranac Lake

The hardest thing about attending First Night Saranac Lake is knowing where to start. At its core, the event is more than a family-friendly New Year's Eve celebration. It's more like a smorgasbord of all things Saranac Lake. That means there's so much art, music, dancing and revelry crammed into the little mountain village it's impossible to see it all. For a New Year's Eve fanatic like myself, that's a good thing, but it can seem daunting to the uninitiated traveler. I can relate, and I'm here to help.

In past years I've been another face in the crowd, clutching my First Night performance schedule while frantically charging between venues to catch the next big act. My New Year's experience this year is bound to be different, though, because I'm performing with my band, Crowfeather, from 9 p.m. to midnight at the Methodist Church. Instead of trying to see it all, I'll be staying put. Instead of trying to coordinate with an ever-expanding group of party-goers, they'll come to me. My night will be hectic in a completely different way, but I haven't forgotten what it's like to be in the audience. With that in mind, here's some advice from someone who's been there before.

Revelry and music are one during First Night Saranac Lake

Planning the New Year

First thing's first: If you haven't picked up your First Night button yet, do it right away. It gets you into all of the venues, and with a dozen bands and multiple other entertainers on hand, you'll want as much extra time as possible the evening of the festivities. Plus, you'll save $3 on each button you purchase early, which adds up if you have a big family. The buttons are available in a bunch of locations around Saranac Lake. Or, you can purchase them here.

Get there early: If you have kids, this is a no-brainer as there are children's craft activities at the Adirondack Carousel from 4 to 5:30 p.m. The rest of the entertainment doesn't start until 6 p.m., but that doesn't mean people without kids should wait until 5:45 to head out. I suggest making a night of it. Get downtown by 4, have a leisurely dinner at one of Saranac Lake's many restaurants, visit the nearby shops and art galleries, and bask in the pre-midnight energy. It's fun to pop into town when things are in full swing, but it's more fun to feel the excitement build to a glorious climax.

Bring a pencil: My favorite activity before First Night officially begins is enjoying dinner with some friends while perusing the performance schedule. I've been accused of being a planner before, and there's a reason for that — I like to plan things out. Take a look at any of my past First Night schedules and you'll see what I mean. They're ragged, creased and heavily marked. There's a method to my madness, though. By deciding what's important to see before hitting the town, I can head from destination to destination with purpose and conviction. How else do you juggle bands, puppet shows, Mohawk storytelling, and comedy routines?

Entertainment abounds at First Night Saranac Lake

Be flexible: No amount of planning can prepare you for the devastating blow maximum capacity regulations can impose on an otherwise carefree night. It's happened to all of us, but don't fret if you're turned away at the door. Simply consult the schedule and move on, and make sure you're first in line the next time that performance happens.

Dress warm: Being first in line means standing in line, so dress for the occasion. While it's fun to get dressed up, remember that this is New Year's Eve in the mountains, so it'll likely be cold. Wear layers and don't forget a hat, mittens and scarf. Don't worry, you won't be the only one wearing pac boots and thermal underwear under your evening gown.

Support the musicians: As the drummer for a particularly energetic band that melds funk, rock, jazz, blues, and a bunch of other genres into a strangely cohesive unit, I speak from experience when I say musicians love it when people get excited about their music. If you like what you hear, let out a hoot. If you really like what you hear, dance! It's New Year's Eve, so cut loose, clap, cheer, and laugh your way into 2016. Trust me, you won't be shushed by the people onstage, and others might even feel inclined to join you!

Ball drop and fireworks: Need I say more? The ball drop and fireworks in Riverside Park are a spectacle that's not to be missed. They're a percussive goodbye to 2015 and a joyous welcome to 2016 — what could be better? If your answer to that question is “more celebrating,” check out this blog for some great post-fireworks ideas. Happy New Year!

This week in related ADK traditions:

Village of Lights aka Santa’s domain.

Make this triad your newest tradition.

7 favorite local traditions.

Heartwarming holiday happenings.

Plunge into the New Year.

Meat pie: dinner or dessert? 

Ornaments & recipes: Handing down tradition.

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