Spa City rallies to keep First Night fireworks
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. >> Saratoga Arts, the nonprofit organization running First Night for the 10th year in a row revealed a new plan for First Night fireworks.
Traditionally, Spa City has celebrated First Night with fireworks at midnight. The pyrotechnical display rings in the new year with lights and noise, and is generally one of the event’s last scheduled activities. This year, it’s changing.
In fact, this year the fireworks almost didn’t happen. As Executive Director Joel Reed explained during the press conference, “a lot of people don’t realize how much money it costs to put on a complex event like First Night, and for a private nonprofit organization like Saratoga Arts, sometimes the budget can be very tight.”
The fireworks display alone costs about $10,000, and unfortunately, when Reed and board president Susanne Simpson were looking at this year’s First Night budget, it was one of the things they decided would have to be trimmed out.
But when word got
out that there wouldn’t be fireworks at First Night, the city rallied. Individuals and corporations alike all decided that that just wouldn’t do.
Mayor Megan Kelly communicated and coordinated between Saratoga Arts and community leaders to secure funding from sources all over the city. Support came in fast and strong from all parts of the city’s legislature, from the Chamber of Commerce to the Department of Public Works to public safety. When the dust settled, there was a contract with Santore Fireworks, all the necessary permits and paperwork, and all the necessary funding to make it happen.
“This is thanks to tremendous effort from the community,” Reed said at Thursday’s press conference. “It’s such a great example of the partnerships that happen in the community that make Saratoga the great city it is.”
The big change in the fireworks display this year is in the timing. For the first time, the fireworks will kick off First Night instead of close it out. The display will happen at 5:45 p.m. in Congress Park, and it will be free.
“We really feel that having the fireworks at the start of First Night is a win-forall-situation,” Simpson said. “It makes the fireworks very family-friendly, and keeps the tradition in place.”
Having the fireworks at the start of First Night means kids aren’t up long past their bedtime waiting to see the display.
Once the fireworks are done, all the restaurants in town will still be open for business - you can catch an early meal before hitting the rest of the festival without having to try to leave and come back. And it’s completely free to attend.
To maintain the tradition of a midnight event that welcomes in the new year, Saratoga Arts is also unveiling First Night’s first ever Digital Midnight, a slideshow presentation that will also be free to attend. For those who don’t want to stay out that late, Digital Midnight will be available for home viewing through a live-stream on the Saratoga Arts website.
A streaming link is available on the First Night page of the website, www.saratogaarts.org.
Also at the press conference, Chamber of Commerce president Todd Shimkus announced the creation of the Saratoga Fireworks Fund.
“We’re interested in a way that we can permanently have fireworks at First Night and on the Fourth of July,” he said. “With the new fund, companies and individuals can choose to make donations or become sponsors to make sure we always have the funding we need to always have fireworks.”
Apart from the fireworks and Digital Midnight, First Night buttons will be required to participate in the rest of the night’s activities. Buttons cost $20 and are still on sale at a variety of locations, including online. Profits from First Night event sales will fund Saratoga Arts programming throughout the year.
To learn more about the Saratoga Fireworks Fund, and to make a donation or sign up for sponsorship, visit https://secure. givelively.org/donate/saratoga-county-foundationinc/saratoga-springs-fireworks-fund.
Saratoga Arts executive director Joel Reed and board president Susanne Simpson announce the changes to the First Night fireworks.
Chamber of Commerce president Todd Shimkus announces the creation of the Saratoga Fireworks Fund.
Commissioner Peter Martin comments on the changes to the First Night fireworks.