The annual New Year’s Eve celebration in Oneonta is turning into a two-week Festival of Lights drive through in Neahwa Park this year.

Trees will be decorated, floating luminaries placed in the pond, and the community is being invited to create light displays people can drive by without getting out of their cars. "We normally have a family friendly New Years eve celebration at the Foothills Performing Arts Center in Oneonta, but because of COVID, we had to cancel that," said First Night Oneonta Chairwoman Carol Mandigo. "Neahwa Park is the ideal location for this type of festival because it has roadways and tons of beautiful spaces and features to decorate as well as hundreds of gorgeous trees."

The festival will run from December 18th through January 3rd and will be dedicated to John Hayen and his family. "John died recently at the age of 58 and was famous for his amazing, extensive Christmas Lights display at his home in Oneonta," said Mandigo.

First Night’s own display will be dedicated to a board member who passed away October 22nd. "He was a retired Marine and exemplified everything good about service to our country and community." The display will be titled Paul Robinson: Semper Fi' in his honor.

$2000 in prizes will be handed out to the person or business who creates the best display in Neahwa park. "The prizes will be a combination of cash and a donation to a charity of the winner’s choice."

Two special evenings with live entertainment in the park are also being planned.

Anyone wishing to participate can get more at firstnightoneonta.com or email firstnightoneonta@gmail.com.

"Since we cannot gather this year to bring the community together at Foothills, we
still want to celebrate the caring, creativity, and resiliency of Oneonta," Mandigo said.