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Saratoga Springs gears up for a new style of New Year's celebration

Saratoga Springs New Years Celebration in Congress Park
Jacob Weakland
Saratoga Springs New Year's celebration in Congress Park

Saratoga Springs plans on ringing in the new year with a weekend-long celebration.

The city of Saratoga Springs and local businesses are gearing up for a new approach to New Year’s Eve. “First Night Saratoga,” the largest New Year’s event in the state outside of New York City, is out with the old.

Instead, preparation is under way on a four-day "Saratoga New Year's Fest,” a collaboration between the city’s Department of Accounts, Discover Saratoga, and local businesses and organizations.

The rebrand happened in 2022 as pandemic restrictions loosened. Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce President Todd Shimkus says officials and businesses took the opportunity to re-think the celebration.

“It is a totally different model from what was ‘First Night.’ It’s a collaborative venture between the chamber, the city, Discover Saratoga, the city center, we’re working with a local promoter to bring in the entertainment. And when I say that, that’s a big piece of this. We’re bringing in, you know, some top talent from around the country as opposed to using just local bands and local musicians,” explained Shimkus.

Speaking with WAMC, Commissioner of Accounts Dillon Moran explains the re-brand was spurred by a variety of reasons including the event’s struggle to turn a profit.

“The First Night model was a non-for-profit model. We are not a non-for-profit model. In order for it to be a continuing concern and for something that has the sustainability and the durability to last into the future, we felt the goal had to be better than break even. And what we simply do is we revert the profits back into the program and the process and we continue to build,” said Moran.

One of the benefits of leaving behind the First Night model, Moran says, is the freedom to book larger musical acts.

This year’s line-up features big names like Joan Osborne, Robert Randolph, and the Gibson Brothers. Shimkus says musical acts and fireworks will be earlier on December 31st.

“Well, what we’re doing is putting a concert right on Ellsworth Jones Place. So, we will have a family-friendly band outside starting at 5 p.m. So, families will be able to come and hangout and listen to some music and then an hour later turn around and watch the fireworks. It’ll be like celebrating the new year at midnight, it’ll just be at a family friendly time of around 6:15,” said Shimkus.

Moran emphasizes that the new take on New Year’s celebration is meant to carry the city’s momentum as a tourist destination through the winter season.

“We know we got people from all over the place that traveled here from Canada, from all throughout the Northeast. And, we are a destination. And, so, if we can provide more value and give those visitors to our city the opportunity to do more on that weekend, we’re gonna do that. Because at the end of the day this is about benefitting our businesses, about celebrating what is unique about Saratoga, and, again, being an all-year type of a city to come to,” explained Moran.

Discover Saratoga President Darryl Leggieri did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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