First Night Scranton organizers decided to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the event with a bang, outdoing themselves in every aspect, from the featured “Hollywood” theme, to the spectacular fireworks display at midnight.
“With ‘First Nights’ dropping all over the place because of funding,” said co-chairman Damian the Magician, “we thought we’d go big, go Hollywood.”
The New Year’s Eve event will begin Dec. 31 in the Food Court in The Mall at Steamtown with BINGO from 3-6 p.m., then branching out to various locations around downtown Scranton, where musicians, comedians, magicians, face painters, and a variety of other acts will entertain throughout the evening. The event will conclude with the grand finale fireworks display at midnight, best viewed from the corner of Lackawanna and Penn Avenues.
Committee member Larry Mohr said this year’s theme provides opportunity for an incredible variety of programs, keeping things new and different, which is one goal of the event. Joni Metzger, another committee member, agreed, saying this year’s theme covers everything from westerns to horror to science fiction and beyond.
Headlining the entertainment is nationally known comedy magician and ventriloquist Bob Carroll. Opening for him at 7 p.m. at Elm Park Church (upstairs) will be Dalton-born Scranton native Damian the Magician with a brand new Hollywood-themed act.
A Hollywood Trivia Game will be hosted by PA Live’s “Movie Guy,” J.W. Colwell, in the AFA Gallery, where event-goers can test their movie knowledge and win prizes from local movie houses and related businesses.
Dr. Frankenstein’s Horror Lab will be set up in the lobby of the Ritz Theater, where classic horror movies will play throughout the night. Magician Mike Simon will be on hand to send chills through the audience with his spooky magic tricks and illusions.
The evening will include plenty to do for all ages, such as carriage rides, face painting, balloon animals, fortunetellers, caricatures, and more, all of which is included with a $10 button, available the day of the event or in advance at The Mall at Steamtown, Boscov’s stores in Wilkes-Barre and Scranton, and all Gerrity’s locations. Buttons will also be available for one day only at The Viewmont Mall on Saturday, Dec. 28. Senior citizens may purchase buttons for $5 the day of the event only with proper ID. Children five years of age and younger gain free admission.
Damian said the low admission price of the event is one of its greatest benefits to the community, along with its entertainment variety and family-friendly, alcohol-free environment. First Night Scranton includes about 20 different acts, in addition to the fireworks, for about the same or less than the price of one movie ticket.
“A lot is to be said for a safe and controlled event,” Damian said, “on a night when that is a rare thing.”
And the fireworks, he said, are the “icing on the cake. The right way to close one year out and start another.”
Organizers all agreed that First Night Scranton, which is non-profit, exists only because of a group of dedicated volunteers. Damian the Magician and Doug Smith are co-chairmen of the event, and Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty is this year’s honorary chairman. Paige Balitski is the project manager and Sandra Opshinsky is the development and event planner. Also on the Executive Committee are Joni Metzger and Larry Mohr (also known as “Cosmo and Connie”), Joanne Jordan (also known as “Jo Jo the Clown”) and Alison Boga, who heads up the BINGO event.
The association is always looking for more people to help out, especially the night of the event, and those interested can call the First Night office at 570.955.5380 or Damian the Magician at 570.344.1967 or visit the First Night Scranton Association Facebook page online.
“It’s very important for people to be involved in what goes on in their community,” said Damian, explaining that there are many “good causes” in Scranton, First Night being one of them.