Numbers are missing in Binghamton, NY.
No, someone hasn't been stealing house numbers. Instead, as a sign of our times, our First Night celebration was cancelled. The large numbers that were posted in front of each venue used to appear in early December.
Now, these streetcorners stand empty.
No parade of merrymakers will fill the street at 6pm on New Years Eve. No horse drawn street cars will cruise the streets of downtown. No venues will be filled with music, with arts, with merrymakers. No maps, with numbers, will direct families to alcohol free entertainment.
No children's countdown at 9. No fireworks or bonfire at midnight. A friend of mine won't be entertaining.
Even the First Night organization, at one time headquartered in Binghamton, has fled (back to Boston.). Meanwhile, Southern Tier Celebrates closed its doors too, earlier this year. It almost makes you cry to read their list of past achievements to promote the arts in Binghamton.
All I can do is share some memories. When my son was younger, I had a cousin who would come up here occasionally from NYC with her family and her daughter and my son would participate in First Night with us. One year, Nickelodeon sponsored a show that was loads of fun. Another year, my son, fresh from the funeral of his grandfather, was able to enjoy a magic act and an airflight simulator. Many of those years, the temperature was hovering near zero. The streets were always filled with snow. There was at least one First Night I didn't go to because I felt it would be too icy.
I'm not a huge fan of the performing arts. I rarely go to plays and almost never to concerts. (I'd rather stay home and curl up with a book.) But I feel that communities need a celebration like First Night.
So what replaces First Night? Well, a "Studio 65" celebration (recreation of "Studio 54". It's only $85. OK, its a fundraiser. But in this era of high unemployment, Binghamton needs something else.
I never thought I would miss First Night. It's been about 4 years since I went last. I was hoping to one day be able to stay up long enough (and keep myself warm long enough) to enjoy the bonfire and fireworks. Now, I may never have that opportunity.