Festival Banner (the Arts Festival blog)

2016 First Night Runners
These runners put up great numbers in the 5K Resolution Run.

It was in the teens—with a “feels like” temperature in the single digits—when I walked to the office this morning, and even though I was warm in my long johns, SmartWool® socks, and fleece everything else, I was glad that temperatures for First Night—when I spend lots of time outdoors—were a balmy 32 degrees.

Although the office is still home to some First Night props that need to be returned to our self-storage units, it’s a good time to wrap up 2016 First Night State College. Thank you to sponsors, board, volunteers, performers, runners, skaters, our ice carvers, and audience members for making our twenty-second First Night State College a big success. We couldn’t have done it without you!

It was especially fun to work with Penn State Lady Lion Basketball, which offered free admission to people wearing a First Night button for the Big Ten home opener against Northwestern on the afternoon of December 31. Though First Night can’t take any credit for the team’s 79-72 win over the Lady Wildcats, I know that some extra fans at the Bryce Jordan Center didn’t hurt. After the game, Lady Lion Coach Coquese Washington came downtown and took a star turn as the official starter of our 5K Resolution Run, sponsored by Mount Nittany Health. Almost 800 runners dashed down College Avenue when she said “Go!”.

The Resolution Run’s overall men’s winner was Mitchell Etter, 16, of Boalsburg (15:45) and the overall women’s winner was Megan Marshall, 29, of State College (18:32), while the costume winner was “Where’s Waldo”. I’m especially proud of our two runners in the over 80 category—Arnold Gasche and Paul Christopher. Race results, photos, and more info from the Nittany Valley Running Club can be found here.

We had more skaters than ever in our evening at the Pegula Ice Arena sponsored by Geisinger Health System, so all those comments I made online about Sonja Henie and Dick Button seem to have paid off. (That’s right…Sonia Henie and Dick Button. I know, I’m showing my age!) Next year I wonder if Chris Whittemore and his staff at the arena would teach me how to drive the Zamboni? I’d like to be able to link to some great skating photos, but until our photographer puts on skates it’s not going to happen. If you have skating photos from First Night that you’d like to share, by all means send them to us.

While I didn’t make too many resolutions, other than the traditional “lose ten pounds”, there were lots of great resolutions on our resolution sculptures. I saw everything from a simple “More love….” to lengthy resolutions in languages I can’t read. Our digital guru Courtney Hunt shared some resolutions all of us should adopt in the digital realm for the coming year, and you can check those out here.

We’ve had lots of feedback on our performers. Our comedy and variety performers, Adam Ace, Evan Young, and Peter Gross were hugely popular, as we thought they would be. Peter Gross showed what a trouper he was when he didn’t let a plane that was a few hours late delay his show. He’d no sooner arrived at the theatre than he was ready to go on.

On the musical side of the ledger, Callanish remains hugely popular and Jackie Brown and the Gill Street Band had people dancing in the aisles. The Allegheny Ukulele Kollective drew over sixty people to its ukulele workshop. We were expecting ten or twelve people. Who knew?! Next year, they’ll be in a bigger room. The State High Thespians and the kids of Singing On Stage drew great audiences, too. Be sure to check out all the First Night photos on our Facebook page.

If you call the office in the next few weeks, please bear with us, we’re still learning how to use a new phone system. After over twenty years with our old system, it was finally time to send it to be recycled. The new phone have lots of modern features, none of which we know how to use properly. As I wonder what all the bells and whistles on the phone do, I’m reminded of a sign that used to hang in my friend Pam’s office. It said, “In theory, we should have read the manual.”

I’m sure you don’t need to learn how to read the manual to put the 50th Arts Festival on your July calendars. This year’s Festival starts on July 13 with Children and Youth Day, and the Sidewalk Sale opens on Thursday, July 14 and continues through Sunday, July 17. We’ll have all the great artists and performers that you’ve come to expect, and some special 50th anniversary stuff as well. I hope to see you there!