First Night Saratoga expands

Organizers of First Night Saratoga are anticipating a strong turnout for this year's 13th annual celebration. The alcohol-free, family-oriented citywide party will incorporate the successes of years past with new twists. The theme for 2009 is Fire and Ice.

Saratoga YMCA officials who put on First Night unveiled this year's plans on Monday, Dec. 1, and said that with 14,000 First Night admission buttons for sale, Saratoga Springs will once again be the biggest party in New York outside of Times Square.

"It's such a different activity on a night that's usually focused on partying," said Maureen Duda, YMCA's First Night Coordinator. "We're excited to be spreading all over town this year."

Three locations in Saratoga State Park will be added: The Saratoga Auto Museum, the Administration Building and the Little Theater. Events in the park will culminate at 9:40 p.m., when the Cosmic Karma fire dancers set fire to a 24-foot tall "eight" to symbolize leaving '08 behind and welcoming 2009.

The midnight hour, however, will once again be celebrated with fireworks. Construction of a new hotel behind city hall will move the festivities to Congress Park, though.

The First Night Saratoga 5K Run will kick off at 5:30 p.m. at Skidmore College and simultaneously halfway around the world, when 50-plus members of the Army serving in Afghanistan will run their own early-morning leg of the race. The operation is the brainchild of Matthew Armstrong, now serving in Afghanistan, a former Spa City resident whose family resides in Clifton Park. Armstrong ran the race in years past.

"Just out of the blue, he e-mailed me a month or two ago," explained Duda, who said that the possibility of simulcasting the start of the race in Afghanistan for downtown revelers is being explored. The race always fills up, but there are still a few spots left in the 1,000-runner roster.

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