First Night Danbury celebrates 25th anniversary in fine fashion

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Silvertones of Danbury perform for First Night at St. James Episcopal Church

Silvertones of Danbury perform for First Night at St. James Episcopal Church

 Be they city natives whose families date back generations, toddlers attending their first magic show or recently relocated teenagers opting to join parents and friends for new city culture over NetFlix, a multi-ethnic mix of families savored the city’s 25th New Year’s Eve bash.

For $10 a person, the CityCenter sponsored and organized First Night Danbury offered all comers an eclectic variety of music from pop to oldies and gospel to the traditional Carillon concert at St. James Episcopal Church where the night’s festivities kicked off at just about 4:30 p.m. Add to that magicians, puppeteers, ice sculptors, vaudevillian comedians and an eye-opening, jaw-dropping LED light show by the Boston-based Cirque de Light to finish off the night three hours before midnight.

Though there was no snow on the ground, the January air was brisk and all attenders were huddled into coats and jackets as they moved between a series of downtown venues, pretty much oriented around the Danbury Public Library, the Danbury Music Centre, the Palace Theater and the Danbury Ice Arena. Most, though, were wearing smiles, eager to experience the last hours of the current year as they anticipated the unknown of the coming 2015.

“We’re excited,’’ said 14-year-old Krissy Bogolawski as she and her friend, Korrine Nelson, attended their first ever First Night Danbury celebration at the Palace Theater.

Dressed in pretty New Year’s Eve attire, the teens admitted this event was better than their plans would have been otherwise.

“We would have likely just be sitting in the basement watching NetFlix,’’ Nelson said.

At the Danbury Public Library, before the 5 p.m. official shows were to begin, “Magic Marty’’ Steinberg, a 15-year First Night Danbury entertainer, welcomed folks into a warm alcove, his enthusiasm for this annually magical night contagious.

As the official festivities started, Magic Marty, and his sidekick, 15-year-old Redding teen magician Lee Winters, entertained children and families alike with their brand of illusion, card and coin tricks, and magic acts that prompted belly roars and befuddled expressions.

One little boy, Gabriel Buxton, 7, was caught off guard when after suggesting he had figured out how a couple tricks were done was called up front of the stage to stand over a magical “trap door.’’ For a moment, the boy’s face turned quizzical as he pondered maybe he could be made to disappear. Instead he ended up tearing up pieces of black and yellow tissue paper only to have it mashed back together so that it turned into a flower hat.

A ripple of giggles spread through the audience even as a giant magic wand appeared to grow out of a paper bag the younger magician sat on the floor next to some chairs that ended up shuffled in an order that corresponded to colored hats and notes in a manner that left even adults in the room scratching their heads.

A short ways away from the magic show were a team of volunteers offering face paintings to children. Five-year-old Felipe Magalhaes’ cheek was to be adorned with “Batman.’’

“They’re having fun,’’ said his mother Santusa as his older sister, Sabrina, decided on what she might like as facial art.

“Everything is good.’’

In the Palace Theater, a Main Street centerpiece with a rich theatrical history, vaudellian performers and magicians treated audiences to tricks, music and some inspirational thoughts on how not to become too caught up in making New Year’s resolutions or spending too much time grappling with problems that one misses the opportunity to just experience the joys in life.

For Danbury resident Jim McGeorge, First Night brings out the best the city has to offer, and he couldn’t wait to just experience what there was to sample: he particularly was interested in hearing the New Hope Mass Choir.

“I’ve always had a great time,’’ said McGeorge, a Danbury Railway museum volunteer and parishioner at St. James Episcopal Church.

“It’s a real honor to have everything start here, especially for the 25th anniversary’’ declared The Rev. Joseph Krasinski, the rector at St. James.

“I think it’s wonderful,’’ said 81-year-old Irene Simonelli whose family are sixth-generation Danburians and parishoners at St. James. She and her daughter, Linda Spaziani, were among the first to gather at St. James for the official grand opening.

“This is something everybody can do as a family,’’ Spaziani said.

Nanci Hutson