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Traditional Favorites, New Features Highlight First Night State College

by on December 28, 2018 2:30 PM

First Night State College will help say goodbye to 2018 and welcome 2019 on Monday with a family-friendly, alcohol-free celebration around downtown.

A State College tradition since 1993 produced by the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, First Night kicks off at noon on New Year's Eve for a full day and night featuring music, theater and comedy performances, ice sculptures, workshops and much more.

This year's event includes dozens of traditional favorites and new additions for the celebration which "promotes the performing and visual arts as catalysts for unifying citizens on New Year’s Eve through imagination, creativity, and community participation."

CATA will be offering special White Loop service from 4:30-11 p.m. with free, continuous transportation between the major event.

Here's a look at what's in store for First Night State College.


First Night buttons help cover some of the costs of the festival and are required for entry to some of the workshops, indoor performances and Pegula Ice Arena throughout the day and night. Buttons are $10 and children 12 and under do not require one if accompanied by an adult with a button. They can be purchased at locations around State College (see the list here) or at performance and information sites on Monday.


First Night State College's most popular event, ice skating sessions will be held on the hour between 5 and 10 p.m. at Pegula Ice Arena. Music will be provided by Larry Moore Productions. A First Night button is required for entry but skates can be rented for free.


The First Night Grand Procession steps off at 6:30 p.m. from St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 208 W. Foster Ave. It's a community event that anyone is welcome to join. Local drummers are invited to bring their own drums or use one of the African drums provided by First Night. People of all ages can be part of the procession, carrying one of the various giant papier-mâché puppets.

Anyone who wishes to participate should meet at the St. Andrew's Education Building no later than 6 p.m. 

The 5K Resolution Run starts at 6:30 p.m. at the corner of College Avenue and South Allen Street. Runners and fast walkers, as well as spectators, are encouraged to wear costumes, and the runner or group of runners with the best costume will receive a plaque. The top three male and female runners also receive a plaque and other top runners in various age groups receive a certificate.

The certified course is mostly flat and loops through the Penn State campus before concluding near the Wesley Center, 256 E. College Ave. See the First Night website for information on registration and costs.


A wide array of performers will take to indoor and outdoor stages around State College starting at noon.

Musical acts at First Night come from a variety of genres including rock, children's music, barbershop, choral, soul, folk, jazz, blues, doo-wop, swing, bluegrass, traditional Irish and Scottish, chamber and honky tonk. Popular local acts such as Miss Melanie & the Valley Rats, Natascha & the Spy Boys, Jackie Brown & the Gill Street Band, Tussey Mountain Moonshiners, Rick Hirsch, Eric Ian Farmer, Tolins, Sleigh & Younkin, Anchor & Arrow, Rodeo Serenade, Archie Blue and more are among the performers.

State High Thespians will feature princes, princesses and special guests with a musical theater performance. Middle-earth Studios presents an interactive storytelling experience with the audience taking part in the adventure in this year's show, "The Pirates of Buccaneer Isle." And FUSE Productions presents the hit musical revue "Side by Side" by Stephen Sondheim.

The day also features performances by comedy hypnotist Alan Sands, circus artist Michael Rosman, magician Earl Houser Jr., and Black Cat Belly Dance.

Two acts will bring comedy and variety to multiple performances. Bob B. and Les S. More stage their comedy duo act at the Downtown Theatre Center for three shows. Bob B’s specialty is stringing together short routines and sight gags which are just as appealing to adults as to their kids. Les S. More is a "reformed magician and pickpocket” who has performed all across the U.S. over his 30 year career and "has trained in the dark arts with some of this country’s most detested scoundrels, magicians and pickpockets."

Happy Valley Improv performs at First Night for the first time with two shows at the State Theatre. Formed in 2017, the troupe has become the area's premier longform improv company, bringing the art of improvisation to the Centre County through performances, classes, workshops and community outreach. Shows are at 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m., and the later show may not be suitable for children.

Plan your day with the performance schedules:

Early Afternoon (Before 3 p.m.) | Late Afternoon (3-5 p.m.)| Early Evening (5-7 p.m.) | Night (After 7 p.m.) 


Ice sculptors will carve more than 100 blocks of ice, creating large walls and sculptures. Visitors can watch the sculptors in action from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on South Allen Street, and sculptures will be on display through midnight

The always popular ice piggy bank and Russian ice slide will be located in Sidney Friedman Park and many more will be on display on Allen Street, in front of the State College Municipal Building and in front of downtown churches and businesses.

Check out the full list of ice sculpture locations.


Two carriages drawn by Percheron draft horses will be available for rides from 7 to 10 p.m. through downtown State College starting from Mayor Welch Plaza at the State College Municipal Building. Rides -- which require a First Night button and $5 fee -- are in high demand, and not all can be accommodated. 


First Night includes a number of workshops for kids and adults to get creative. From 11 a.m to 9 p.m. make a resolution mug at 2000 Degrees ($7 plus a First Night button; last seating at 8 p.m.). Children's arts and crafts workshops for parents and kids to work together will be held at The Makery, 209 West Calder Way, from 1 to 3 p.m. and State College Presbyterian Church social hall, 132 W. Beaver Ave., from 2 to 4 p.m.

Performer workshops include Black Cat Belly Dance at 1 p.m. in the The State Theatre Attic and Songwriting with Jim Colbert at 3 p.m. in The State Theatre Attic.

More workshop info

Centred Outdoors will organize a First Night Hike beginning at 2 p.m. in Sidney Friedman Park and a Luminaria Lighting will be held at 6 p.m. at Memorial Field.


Several resolution-themed exhibits will populate the downtown. Among them is Burning Man, which collects wishes, regrets and unkept resolutions at the State College Municipal Building Lobby from noon to 10:45 p.m. and is then ignited in Sidney Friedman Park at 11p.m. Other resolution exhibits include the Resolution Tree, First Bells fire sculptures, the Bucket List, Edison's Clothesline, First Night Phoenix and the Resolution Yeti. 

This year's celebration also will feature artist Robert Villamagna’s latest resolution sculpture making its debut. The final work will be a surprise and will be on display from noon to 11 p.m. at Mayor Welch Plaza in front of the State College Municipal Building.

From 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. stop in Woskob Family Gallery, 146 S. Allen St. to see current exhibits, warm up and collaborate with fellow community members to create a large-scale mandala.

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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