BETHLEHEM — Few elected officials go out with a bang like John Clarkson anticipates.
The town’s First Night festivities this New Year’s Eve will be his last day in office.
“First Night is my last day,” said Clarkson. The Slingerlands resident announced he would not seek a fourth term at the helm earlier this year.
Though it’s only a coincidence the townwide party falls upon his last mandated day in office, it still makes for a fun day for the community.
“People go out for fun and to be a part of the community,”said Clarkson. “But, it’s also nice knowing that it’s all going towards a good cause.”
The First Night celebration happens Sunday, Dec. 31, at various locations throughout the heart of town, beginning with a fireworks display from the Four Corners in Delmar at 6:30 p.m.
There will also be face painting, crafts for kids, a green screen photo booth and a bounce house.
Buttons are $10 for adults ($15 the night of the event), $5 for kids aged 12 to 18 years old, and free for children under 12.
Money from First Night Bethlehem button sales goes towards raising money for several different community causes: Bethlehem Community Fund, Bethlehem Opportunities Unlimited (BOU), Bethlehem Senior Projects and Friends of Bethlehem Parks & Recreation.
The Bethlehem Community Fund’s mission is to raise money to fill the gap left by traditional social services. Teachers, nurses, guidance counselors, school social workers and area clergy make most of the requests for assistance. Children receive help with school supplies, tutoring expenses, eyeglasses, clothing, camp tuition and other needs. Seniors may find assistance with utility bills, small home repairs, medical costs, a personal emergency response system or pet care. Each December, over 100 Bethlehem families receive holiday baskets of food, clothing and gifts.
All First Night Bethlehem proceeds received by Friends of Bethlehem Parks and Recreation are held in a Scholarship Fund to assist local individuals and families in need participate in town Parks and Recreation activities.
“We love being a part of First Night Bethlehem – we help provide a safe and fun celebration and, at the same time, raise funds for our scholarship fund,” said Joan Gavrilik of Friends of Bethlehem Parks and Recreation. “Through this fund, the Friends assist local individuals and families in need participate in town Parks and Recreation activities.”
All proceeds received by Bethlehem Opportunities Unlimited will go to a scholarship fund in memory of boardmember Chris Porter.
“Christine Porter served as a Bethlehem Opportunities Unlimited board member for more than 15 years,” said BOU President Cindy Ferrari. “During her time on our board, Chris filled pretty much every role we had. Her passing has been a huge loss to our whole community and we feel the best way to honor her memory would be for BOU to dedicate all our proceeds from First Night Bethlehem to a scholarship in her memory.”
And, monies donated to Bethlehem Senior Projects, Inc., will either be used to help support the Bethlehem Food Pantry, or it will be added to an emergency heating fund, or it will be put towards the purchase of a new bus.
Entertainment and activities follow at various nearby venues, all within walking distance of Four Corners, including:
Bethlehem Chabad will feature a kosher food festival, klezmer “Jewish Jazz” music and extravagant balloon creations for kids.
Bethlehem Masonic Lodge will have GB-five and Playin’ with Fire performing.
At the Bethlehem Public Library, young kids and families can enjoy Andy the Music Man, Broadway Bound theater fun, face painting by About Face and more crafts for kids.
Bethlehem Town Hall will be hosting Bethlehem’s Got Teen Talent Show and a DJ dance party.
Delmar Fire House will have the band Head Bump playing and there will be a Bounce House by Bounce-A-Lot Inflatables.
Delmar Reformed Church will feature the Swing Docs and Michael Benedict Jazz Vibes, a performance by Bethlehem Traditional Irish Dance, a DEC wildlife game and crafts for kids.
First United Methodist Church will be hosting two bands, Big Fez & the Surfmatics and Heard, and other activities including learning about and interacting with therapy dogs and face painting by Stellar Face and Body Art.
St. Thomas the Apostle Church where you can enjoy holiday choral music by the Mendelssohn Club.
First Night will also include Jester Jim who was voted “Best Family Show” by Entertainment America, performing at the Four Corners, as well as the Annual Ice Sculpture.
Buttons can be purchased online at Eventbrite.com, and picked up at Bethlehem Town Hall (445 Delaware Avenue, Delmar), or at the following locations:
Bethlehem Public Library, Bethlehem Town Hall, Capital Bank (Slingerlands branch), Delmar Marketplace/McCarroll’s the Village Butcher, National Bank of Coxsackie (Glenmont branch), O’Slattery’s Irish Restaurant & Pub, Perfect Blend Café, Swifty’s Restaurant & Pub, and Twisted Vine Wine & Tap.
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.