After being canceled last year, First Night State College returns on Friday to bid farewell to 2021 and usher in 2022 with a family-friendly celebration throughout the day and night.
A New Year’s Eve tradition in State College since 1994, First Night, a production of the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, kicks off on Friday morning and features music, variety and comedy performances, ice sculptures, workshops, ice skating and much more.
This year’s celebration features traditional favorites, some new additions and a few changes, including new performance venues at the Blue Brick Theatre and 3 Dots Downtown.
FIRST NIGHT BUTTONS
First Night buttons help cover some of the costs of the festival and are required for entry to 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 at https://firstnightstatecollege.com/buy-a-button/) .
A First Night Button is required for performances. Masks that cover your nose and mouth will be required at all indoor events, in accordance with local regulations.
Ice carvers will create an array of more than 80 sculptures out of more than 30,000 pounds of ice between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and they will be on display until 6 p.m. on Saturday (unless Mother Nature disposes of them first). Large sculptures will be on the 100 block of South Allen Street while the always popular ice slide and ice piggy bank will be located in Sidney Friedman Park on the 200 block of South Fraser Street. Smaller sculptures will be in front of sponsoring downtown businesses, at Mayor Welch Plaza in front of the State College Municipal Building, 243 S. Allen St., and in Friedman Park.
FIRST NIGHT HIKE
Start the new year off on the right foot with Centred Outdoors’ First Night Hike. The guided, 45-minute walk begins at noon at the Centred Outdoors ice sculpture in Sidney Friedman Park, touring the ice sculptures that line the streets of downtown State College and offering a chance to watch ice carvers in action on Allen Street.
Spruce Run Farm in Bloomsburg will be visiting Sidney Friedman Park with two reindeer from 4 to 8 p.m.
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 and includes free skate rental.
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.
5K RESOLUTION RUN
The 5K Resolution Run, held in partnership with Nittany Valley Running Club, 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. Chip timing is provided by Runners High.
Runners can register online and in person on Thursday from 2-4 p.m. at the State College Municipal Building or 4:30-6 p.m. at McLanahan’s, 116 S. Allen St., as well as on Friday from 4-6 p.m. at the Penn State Downtown Theatre, 146 S. Allen St. Registration is $28, or $18 for runners age 19 and younger.
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.
LIGHT UP DOWNTOWN
Downtown State College Improvement District’s Light Up Downtown seasonal light display continues through Jan. 2 at Martin Luther King Plaza, on Calder Way and on the Pat Daugherty Walkway next to the Tavern. A brief New Year’s Eve light show will be presented at 7 p.m. at the MLK Plaza.
A wide array of performers will take to indoor and outdoor stages throughout the day.
Musical acts at First Night come from a variety of genres including jazz, rock, folk, brass, bluegrass, blues, soul, honky tonk, children’s music, classical, a flute choir and more with a wide range of popular local and regional performers. See the full schedule here.
State High Thespians will feature princes, princesses and special guests with a musical theater performance at 1 and 3 p.m. in the Municipal Building. Middle-earth Studios presents an interactive storytelling experience in this in this year’s show, ‘The Legend of the Unicorn’ at 2 and 4 p.m. in State College Presbyterian Church, 132 W. Beaver Ave.
Happy Valley Improv will perform at 2, 4:30, 8:30, and 10:30 p.m. at the Blue Brick Theatre, 209 W. Calder Way. The 2 p.m. show will highlight Happy Valley Improv’s youth program, while the 10:30 p.m. show may contain adult themes.
Tempest Productions will present “Words for the Holidays,” readings of new works by local writers along with classic tales, in a live-streamed performance at 8 p.m. on Facebook and YouTube.
First Night will present three variety acts this year. Acrobat Li Liu, who has toured extensively around the world, will perform at 4:30, 7:00, and 9:30 p.m. at Penn State Downtown Theatre.
Jonathan Burns will perform at 3:30, 7:30 and 10 p.m. at The State Theatre. Using his gifts of flexibility, curiosity and goofiness to entertain audiences, Burns has appeared on “America’s Got Talent” and “The Late Late Show.”
David Darwin, a 2000 Penn State graduate, presents a one-man show of juggling, comedy and vaudeville with lots of audience participation at 5, 7 and 9:30 p.m. in the Community Room at the Municipal Building.
Shannon Bishop’s Black Cat Belly Dance performs at 3:30 p.m. at University Baptist & Brethren, 411 S. Burrowes St.
First Night includes several 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.). A children’s arts and crafts workshop for parents and kids to work together using upcycled roofing slates to created miniature blackboards will be held at 1 p.m. at the State College Presbyterian Church social hall.
3 Dots Downtown, 137 E. Beaver Ave., will host two performance workshops. Black Cat Belly Dance’s Shannon Bishop will offer an introduction to improvisational style belly dance at 1 p.m. and singer-songwriter Jim Colbert will present a songwriting workshop at 7 p.m.
Mount Nittany Health representatives will be outside the State College Municipal Building to help attendees write down their healthy resolutions for 2022 and offer small changes to help positively impact their health. Inside the Municipal Building, individuals can pin their resolutions to the First Night Phoenix, one of the celebrations popular Resolution Sculptures.
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 11 p.m.
Others include the Resolution Tree at 3 Dots Downtown; First Bells, a sound sculpture installation in Sidney Friedman Park; fire sculptures from 5-11 p.m. in Sidney Friedman Park; Edison’s Clothesline along South Allen Street; the Bucket List at the Blue Brick Theatre; and the Resolution Yeti on South Allen Street.