First Night Saranac Lake canceled due to COVID worries

SARANAC LAKE — First Night, Saranac Lake’s villagewide alcohol-free celebration of the arts on New Year’s Eve, has been canceled for a second year in a row because of the coronavirus pandemic.

A statement from the First Night board says this was a “difficult” and “painful” decision for them to make.

First Night board Chair Sue Patterson said the board’s vote was unanimous, but no one wanted to cancel. They had already booked musicians and spoken with venues.

But she said there were a variety of reasons for them to cancel in light of the pandemic.

The numbers of COVID-19 cases are rising in the area, just as they did at this time last year, and public health officials are again attributing these spikes to holiday gatherings.

Though the event is still more than a month away, and they can’t predict how prevalent the virus will be on Dec. 31, Patterson said they all expect it to rise.

“We don’t want people to get sick because of us,” she said.

Patterson said Harrietstown town Health Officer George Cook had been talking with the board about the event and told her he also recommended against holding the event.

“COVID-19 incidence remains high in northern New York, especially for unvaccinated people,” a statement from the board reads. “Last year saw nationwide spikes after Thanksgiving and Christmas.”

Patterson also said it would be difficult to get volunteers to work at the event because they would be reluctant to get into conflicts over patrons wearing masks. The shows have to be held indoors, she said — it’s going to be cold.

The annual arts event has been held on New Year’s Eve since the 2005-to-2006 year change to provide an all-ages event with live music, comedy, children’s performers and fireworks.

Board members said they plan to bring the event back as soon as possible.

“We will do it next year, darn it!” Patterson said.

Patterson said First Night Saranac Lake is also recruiting new board members and said anyone interested can contact her at trilliumdogs@gmail.com.

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