Thousands brave cold at Pittsburgh's First Night festivities

Creators of 'Pittsburgh Dad' Web series attract lots of attention as they lead parade

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On a cold and frosty night, Pittsburghers' spirits were warm Monday as they slogged through slushy Downtown streets by the thousands to ring in the new year at the Highmark First Night Pittsburgh 2013 celebration.

Revelers lined Penn Avenue three deep for the parade, which featured Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and the creators of the popular Web series "Pittsburgh Dad," Curt Woottan and Chris Preksta, as grand marshals.

Many were out for a shot of pure family fun, and others had more Yinzer-centric interests.

Curt Davis, 26, of Brighton Heights, a "Pittsburgh Dad" fan, attended the festivities on a second date with Jessica Bachner, also 26, of Cranberry.

When Mr. Woottan strolled by in full character, Mr. Davis took the opportunity to converse with his favorite Web star by asking where his wife from the show, Deb, was.

"Where you think she's at?" hollered Mr. Woottan, as the crowd laughed. "Probably still shoppin'!"

A giddy Mr. Davis couldn't hide his amusement.

"I've been watching it since the first episode," he said. "It's amazing."

Later, outside a packed Benedum Theater during a performance by the R&B band House of Soul, Mr. Woottan admitted that he didn't expect spectators to call out to him nonstop throughout the parade.

"It was overwhelming, but at the same time, we're really blessed to have such an awesome town and awesome fans," he said.

Steely McBeam, the Steelers mascot who hung around the First National Bank Family Tent where kids did hands-on crafts, preferred to respond to questions about his take on the celebration with a fist pump.

Pink-cheeked Jake Bauman, 6, who walked in the parade, was a bit more pensive and put a finger to his lip when asked about his favorite part of the night.

"This is weird, but drinking a whole cup of lemonade," he said.

His father, Tim Bauman, 52, said the family of Parkersburg, W.Va., who gathered around the food trucks parked on Penn Avenue, have attended First Night for the past six years.

Others, like Kathy Rudolph, 48, came out for the first time.

"My husband and I have been gluttons, and we wanted to do something positive for our kids," she said.

Ms. Rudolph, her children, and her brother and sister's families enjoyed the balloon artist and a decoration station inside Fifth Avenue Place.

"We try to have family-friendly events showcased around the arts," said Darcy Kucenic, director of the event. "Our motto is 'there's something for everyone.' "

An estimated 50,000 people attended last year, drawing the largest crowd in history. Ms. Kucenic hoped as many would return this year, but the cold weather undoubtedly kept some families away.

The evening culminated with the raising of a half-ton LED-studded sphere.

The ball, built in 2006 by Technique Architectural Products in Wilkinsburg, accended 74 feet starting at 11:59. With more than a thousand lights patterned in the shape of the region's three rivers, the sphere was partially built from recycled aluminum and plastic.

Organizers assured that the ball's name -- the Future of Pittsburgh -- is no accident.

"It's a positive outlook -- rising as opposed to falling," Pittsburgh Cultural Trust marketing manager Derek Scalzott said.

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Taryn Luna: tluna@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1985. Andrew McGill contributed.


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