Plenty of people avoid going out on New Year’s Eve because they dread sharing the roads with inebriated drivers, or because they are in recovery from alcohol abuse problems and don’t want to be surrounded by people who will make them feel pressured to drink. Recognizing this, more and more communities are offering family-friendly First Night-style celebrations as an appealing alternative to booze-fueled parties. New Paltz Eve was our town’s version, inaugurated back in the 1990s, running for a few years, then lapsing.
But one year ago the event was revived with the help of the grant funding that created the Greater New Paltz Community Partnership (GNPCP), a program designed to educate young people about the dangers of substance abuse and to offer a support system to folks in recovery. New Paltz Eve redux was a smashing success last year, according to GNPCP project director Phoenix Kawamoto, with lots of support from churches, community organizations, local businesses and municipal agencies. So this year it’ll be back again, with activities for participants of all ages.
“Last year we had about 200 people come through dinner. It was a good turnout for the first time,” Kawamoto says. That community dinner — absolutely free — will be hosted once again by the New Paltz United Methodist Church, located at the corner of Main and Grove Streets. “We’re going to have three different kinds of homemade chili: beef, turkey and vegetarian, served with rice, plus gluten-free cornbread and cookies and beverages. It’ll be continuous serve from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., or until we run out of food.”
The day’s events begin at the New Paltz Youth Program’s Teen Scene, where a scavenger hunt game will be offered from 2:30 to 4 p.m. on Thursday, December 31. Children in the 3-to-5 age range can enjoy storytime and a craft activity at the Elting Memorial Library from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m., followed by a family-oriented magic and comedy show with Macaroni the Clown at 4:30, which Kawamoto says is “appealing for all ages.”
After the community dinner, parents can take little ones home and tuck them in while teens and 20-somethings can head over to the hall at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church for an alcohol-free coffeehouse. Live music will be provided by young local bands recruited by Andrew Vlad, a bassist who works for the New Paltz Youth Program. “I’m really excited about the bands,” Kawamoto says. “We wanted to give kids an opportunity to jam and shine and hang out.”
The coffeehouse event begins at 8 p.m. and is expected to run until 11 or 11:30, when everyone is invited to gather at Hasbrouck Park for a community bonfire celebration, with recorded music presented by local radio personality Michelle Taylor. Concessionaires will offer hot coffee, tea, cocoa and cider while a bonfire is lit to welcome in the New Year. “The Craft Beer Guild donated an abundance of pallets, so we should have a fair amount of burn time,” Kawamoto says. “Last year we had a really nice neighborhood feel. It was pretty low-key.”
With the exception of the snacks and drinks offered for sale at the coffeehouse and in the park, all the New Paltz Eve events are absolutely free, thanks to support from local businesses and other donors. Most of the activities happen indoors, so will go on regardless of the weather; the bonfire will happen only if it’s dry enough for the pallets to burn. “It was really cold last year: 16 degrees,” Kawamoto recalls. “The Fire Department had to run a second line to put out the fire, because their line froze!” The bonfire will be lit around 11:30 p.m., she says, and likely take an hour or so to burn down.
It’s no coincidence that all the New Paltz Eve activities will occur in the village, within a few blocks of each other, so that participating families can leave their cars in one location. “The goal is to provide a substance-free event that is free for people…to be accessible, user-friendly and everything within walking distance,” says Kawamoto.
“There are lots of opportunities for people to get involved in the event,” she adds. “We’re still looking for volunteers. You can sign up on the website,” at www.newpaltzeve.org. For additional information, call (845) 419-3678, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.facebook.com/events/1663410313876942.