First Night Oil City is packed with activities

First Night Oil City will be held Saturday, Dec. 31, and will feature two fireworks displays. (By Richard Sayer)

This year’s First Night Oil City will offer attendees a wide variety of entertainment complemented by two fireworks displays – a Gusher Fireworks display at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 31, and a Midnight Burst will occur at midnight.

The action-packed family-oriented non-alcoholic celebration will also include outdoor bonfires at Justus Park and Central Avenue Plaza that are built by the City’s Public Works Department with the Boy Scouts providing the wood and tending the fires.

Early evening activities will include hat-making, craft-making and a kickoff Cool Night Light People Procession that will begin at the Transit Building Gate on the North Side.

“As always, there will be great food available about town and a shuttle bus to transport people from venue to venue,” First Night committee members said.

The committee said that over the past 18 years, those who attend First Night have often commented, “There’s so much to do – you won’t be able to do it all.”

Hat-making will take place from 5:30 to 8 p.m. in the ground-floor hallway area of the National Transit Building. Craft-making will take place from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church with church volunteers offering supplies. The Butler Clowns featuring Dennis and Cheryl Butler, members of the Masonic Rite Family Clowns, will share their humor, magic, skits, balloons and music to entertain the young at heart while performing from 6 to 9 p.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church.

The Cool Night Light People Procession will commence at 6:45 p.m. at the National Transit Building gate, on the North Side. The activity provides participants an opportunity to use noisemakers, wear creative hats, or wave “First Lights” or their very own LED creation as they dance, shout and make their festive journey down the street and all the way to Justus Park.

Committee members said the Cool Night Light People’s Procession is for self-expression and participation is encouraged.

Later in the evening, people may participate in the Transit Artist’s Drum Circle at 9 p.m. at the Transit Annex to help gear up for the New Year with noise and enthusiasm.

Myriad unique and stellar entertainment will take place to help usher in 2017, committee members said.

North Side

Entertainment occurring on the city’s North Side includes The Birdman appearing at Karma Coffee, Cliff Hopkins at the National Transit Building, Carol Weakland, Geoff Bach at Trinity United Methodist Church, Max Schang at Trinity and Erie Ice Works at the Town Square.

The Birdman includes trained specialists who provide attendees wearing their First Night buttons an opportunity to have their photo taken with one of a number of beautiful exotic rescue birds. Cliff Hopkins’ magic includes slicing a woman in half while she’s standing, making it snow indoors or defying the laws of gravity. Carol Weakland brings literary classics to life in an amazing one-woman production.

Geoff Bach is described as an extremely skilled juggler and acrobat who engages audiences by using silent improvisational comedy.

The Butler Clowns combine humor, magic, skits and balloon-tying to entertain the young at heart.

Bill Sandusky of Erie Ice Works will spend the evening creating a six-block ice throne in the Town Square. People can watch Sandusky work and then take a photo on the finished ice throne.

Max Schang is a blues guitarist and singer who has become a local legend over a 40-year period of performing, composing and recording blues music.

South Side

Entertainment occurring on the city’s South Side includes Talking Across the Line at Calvary United Methodist Church, Mitch Littler at Rocko’s Pizzeria, Matt Gavula at Famoore’s, Caribbean Extravaganza at the Oil City YMCA, Jay Vonada Organ Trio East at Christ Episcopal Church and Kaleb Lewis at Spilling the Beans.

Talking Across The Line features Michael Kline, Carrie Kline on guitar and guest Bill Corby on bass. Group members will demonstrate their ability to use their music to educate audiences about historical and cultural events as they transport listeners to another place and time.

Matt Gavula, Erie’s Piano Man, will be playing the songs of Elton John, Billy Joel, Garth Brooks, America, Matchbox 20 and more.

Mitch Littler is a self-taught full-time professional musician who plays the slide guitar, drums, mandolin and harmonica.

Caribbean Extravaganza is a versatile group of musicians originally from Trinidad and Tobago that presents an exciting choreographed show consisting of calypso songs and limbo. The group features Prince Pablo, Bobby Dee, Mornalisa, Sherrie, Curtain, Darrmorr, Isaac and Shemika.

The Jay Vonada Organ Trio East includes trombonist Jay Vonada, organist Steve Adams and drummer Tom James.

Kaleb Lewis is a talented artist who attended Tom Savini’s Special Make-Up Effects and, upon graduation, appeared on SyFy Channel’s “FaceOff.” Lewis will recreate his winning Snake God makeup while magically sharing tips related to special effects.

First Night banners mark the location of each performance site.

A non-handicapped- accessible shuttle bus will be running from 5:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. The North Side stop will be in front of the National Transit Building. South Side stops will be near the Grace United Methodist Church, the Masonic Hall and Calvary United Methodist Church.

Admission to First Night Oil City events requires the purchase of a button at a cost of $10. Children 5 years of age and younger are admitted free.

With a button, attendees may choose to attend any of the 15 indoor events by purchasing and wearing their First Night Button.

Blinking buttons are worn by First Night volunteers.

Volunteers donate their time to help make the events possible, committee members said.

Advanced button sales will take place at Oil City Library, Spilling the Beans, the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce, the Karma Coffee Co., Giant Eagle in Oil City and Franklin and at the Days Inn.

A comprehensive event schedule will accompany each button sold.

“It contains all of the information you need regarding the events taking place on First Night,” committee members said.

More details are also available on the event’s Facebook page.

Button sale sites after 5 p.m. on New Year’s Eve will include The National Transit Building, Karma Coffee and The Days Inn on the North Side and at Spilling the Beans on the South Side. Color changing First Lights are for sale on New Year’s Eve at these locations.

The members of this year’s First Night Committee included George Cooley, Jeff Corbett, Dan Feroz, Lynn Pacior-Malys, Bill and Robin Moon, Libby Williams and Susan Williams.

In order to continue the event from year to year, the committee said it is always in need of additional members and community volunteers.

Those interested in joining the committee or serving as a volunteer or those needing additional information may contact Susan Williams at the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce at (814) 676-8521 or at

Next year’s celebration will mark the 20th anniversary of First Night Oil City.