If wading through a crowded bar or sitting in front of the TV are not places you want to be as the ball drops this New Year's Eve, let First Night State College provide you with an alternative, family-friendly way to ring in the New Year.
This alcohol-free, community event starts at 10 a.m. Saturday, and provides activities like live entertainment, outdoor ice carving, carriage rides, children's crafts and a 5K run throughout the day.
Rick Bryant, director for Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts which produces the event, said First Night provides a great way for locals to spend the evening with their families.
Above is a replica of the Capitol Building sculpted in ice, which highlighted the 2008 Presidential elections that year at First Night State College.
"If you're over 21 and want to go out for a drink or a fancy dinner, there are tons of options," he said. "But there aren't as many if you're not in that demographic."
A big draw for many festivalgoers is the annual ice sculpture display which fills the streets of downtown State College with more than 30,000 pounds of carved ice.
Ernie DiMartino, the chief ice sculptor for the event and president of DiMartino Ice Company Inc. in Jeannette, said preparations for First Night started on Thursday, when he and the other sculptors began fusing the blocks of ice that will become more than 80 ice sculptures by Saturday. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. that day, the sculptors were hard at work creating things like an igloo, an angel fish and a winged-back chair.
If you go
What: First Night State College
When: Activities begin at 10 a.m. Saturday
Where: Downtown State College
Details: The 2012 First Night State College button is required for admission to all indoor performances. They are $8 and can be purchased at the door of events and at select downtown businesses. Children younger than 5 will be admitted for free. A complete listing of events is at www.firstnightstatecollege.com.
DiMartino said that this is the biggest project his company completes each year, but the audience makes the work worthwhile.
"I just love the people and the reception we receive from the spectators," DiMartino said of the event. "They're a very appreciative crowd."
Bryant said seeing the sculptures is outside of many people's "normal experience," and so to many, this as a great annual photo opportunity.
"We try to make them so that they're marginally educational," Bryant said of the subjects of the sculptures, which in the past have included things like a large replica of the Capitol Building to highlight the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election.
"This year's sculptures were chosen to show off the carver's virtuosity," he said.
Ryan Crosby, an 18-year-old from Greensburg and a freshmen at Penn State Altoona, hopes to show off just that this year when he will get his first chance to create a sculpture of his own at the event. Crosby has been helping out the DiMartino sculptors at the event for the past three years, but this year, working as DiMartino's youngest apprentice, he's excited that he will be given his own block to create his own piece of art.
"I'm thrilled, actually," Crosby said.
Crosby said he loves seeing people make their way out in the cold weather each year to see what ice sculpting is all about, and would encourage anyone who's never been to the festival before to check it out.
"It's not every day you see that," he said.
The wealth of local and regional live entertainment set to perform at First Night is also not something you'll see and hear everyday, Bryant said, especially at the low $8 button price.
"It's a great opportunity to see lots of good shows for not a lot of money," he said.
Callandish, a State College band that plays traditional Irish and Scottish music, will perform for the 10th consecutive year at First Night at 4 p.m. Saturday in the State College Presbyterian Church.
Patty Lambert, who plays flute and tin whistle in the band, said playing the festival is always one of their most exciting gigs of the year.
"[The venue] is always filled, and it's always just a wonderful end to the year," she said. "People are just so happy and we're just so glad to provide happy music for them. It's a great experience from both ends of the stage."
Lambert said that the traditional music the band plays has had a warm reception from fans in the area.
Because it is the social music that the Irish and Scottish played in their homes for centuries, it is also the type of folk music that many people can relate to, Lambert added.
"In Irish music, even the sad music is happy," she said.
Lambert said the variety of choices in live entertainment is just one of the many reasons people should consider attending First Night.
"It's just my favorite thing to do on New Year's Eve," she said.
DiMartino said it's also a very eye-pleasing event and would satisfy anyone with an appreciation for art.
"It's also a great family event," he added. "The whole family can enjoy it, no matter what your age."
Bryant said locals who come out to the festival will enjoy the small-town atmosphere, and probably end up seeing someone they know.
"You'll experience downtown State College in a different way," he said. "It's quite a different place when the students leave. State College is sort of a small town for a day again."
Mirror Staff Writer Beth Ann Downey is at 946-7520.