Organizers add spark to New Year’s in Bristol

BRISTOL — Bristol Best Night organizers ordered 400 buttons for this year’s New Year’s Eve event. Then they ordered some more, just in case.
It’s going to be epic.
“This year, especially given the lack of New Year’s Eve activities in Burlington, we decided to increase our focus on the final act, with dancing until 11 p.m. with the Starline Rhythm Boys,” said Best Night organizer Eric Warren.
Burlington First Night organizers called it quits last spring, after 35 years, citing declining attendance and the loss of a key sponsor.
Bristol, on the other hand, has still got it going on.
The seven-and-a-half-hour party gets under way at 3:30 p.m. and will include at least 16 scheduled events across three venues: Holley Hall, Walkover Gallery and First Baptist Church of Bristol. Centered among them, the town green will be decorated with luminaria to light the paths and a small fire there will add extra cheer (and warmth) to the festivities. Speaking of warmth, Bristol’s restaurants will be dishing up their best fare and Bristol Baptist will serve soup and bread. New this year: Lawrence Memorial Library will remain open that night, offering hot drinks.
Holley Hall highlights will include longtime favorite Tom Verner of Magicians Without Borders (6 p.m.), the extraordinarily talented cast of Mount Abe’s fall musical, “Newsies” (6:45 p.m.), and a coffeehouse-style open mic hosted by State Representative–elect Caleb Elder (7:15 p.m.). Elder, a talented musician himself, will also act as occasional host/emcee throughout the night and will perform music on the fiddle later in the evening.
Headlining the evening, juke-joint rockers the Starline Rhythm Boys will put Holley Hall’s recent acoustic improvements to the test. Bring your dancing shoes!
“We’ve always loved playing in Bristol, and this is a great way for us to also commemorate our 20th anniversary, bringing our music and great events throughout the Northeast,” said the band’s leader, Danny Coane.
Bristol Best Night has slowly grown in depth and scope since 2006, when Holley Hall was the only venue. Cofounder David Brynn had wanted to create a “First Night” for Bristol, a celebration in — and for — the local community.
“It’s a great community builder. I’m proud of my past involvement with it,” he said. His current involvement, he added with a smile, focuses on tending the fire on the town green.
Bristol Best Night is also a great way to get introduced to the community when you’re new, said organizer Scott Hamshaw, who knows from experience.
“For me and my wife, Kelly, 2009 Bristol Best Night was our first real community event,” Hamshaw said. “We’ve stayed involved ever since.”
Patrick Pitzaimmons, seen here at the Wolkover Gallery during a previous Bristol Best Night, will perform again this New Year’s Eve celebration, but this time at the First Baptist Church.
File photo by Buzz Kuhns
“There is a real sense of community at these events,” fellow organizer Anne Wallace said. “It’s local, it’s comfortable. People are walking around feeling festive, and there’s a great energy.”
It also highlights the wealth of talent in and around Bristol, she said.
Bristol Best Night is a project of the Watershed Center, which is dedicated to building new ties between neighbors and maintaining a strong, vibrant 5-Town community.
Tickets (“Buttons,” actually) cost $10 in advance (available online and at a number of local businesses) and $15 at the door. Children under 12 and seniors over 75 are free. Visit bestnight.org for more information, including the complete schedule.
The buttons themselves are a special Best Night tradition.
“Sometimes people come wearing all their buttons from previous years,” said Wallace.
Hamshaw nodded and grinned.
“We have all of ours on our fridge.”
Reach Christopher Ross at [email protected].
A GROUP FROM Mount Abraham sings at Holley Hall in a past Bristol Best Night. This year’s New Year’s Eve celebration looks to be more entertaining than ever. Photo by Buzz Kuhns
Best Night lineup
First Baptist Church of Bristol
5:00 – Michele Fay with Tim Price
6:00 – Last Train to Zinkov
7:00 – Patrick Fitzsimmons
8:00 – Bread and Bones
Holley Hall
3:30 – kids’ activities
5:00 – Sweet Transition
6:00 – Magicians Without Borders
6:45 – Mt. Abe musical review
7:15 – coffeehouse & open mic
7:45 – Mark Lavoie
8:15 – John Dickason & Glenn Goodwin
9:00 – Starline Rhythm Boys
Walkover Gallery
5:00 – Rick Ceballos
6:00 – Woodchuck’s Revenge
7:00 – Phil Henry
8:00 – Greg Ryan

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