First Thoughts On First Night

First Night was always a tough sell.

(Button design by Miggs Burroughs)

The idea — an alcohol-free New Year’s Eve celebration with a variety of events for little kids, teenagers and adults — is great.  It began in Boston in 1976, and spread around the country.

Westport’s First Night began a decade or so ago.  It wasn’t easy. 

There were venues to find — performances have taken place in schools, Town Hall, the Westport Arts Center, the Y, even bank lobbies and Save the Children.

There was the need to find “something for everyone”:  face-painting, political satire and ice sculptures were a few of the attractions.  Music ranged from folk and rock to chamber and kids’ songs.

And organizers had to change Westporters’ longstanding habit of creating their own fun on New Year’s Eve.  Adults had traditional parties, teenagers their own, with little overlap.

Horse-and-buggy rides are a First Year tradition.

But First Night flourished, more or less.  The main demographic was parents and young children, plus some older folks happy for a chance to get out and socialize too.  Teens attended reluctantly, if at all.

Last year, First Night was hit with a perfect storm.  Four inches of snow and 50 mph winds kept all but the heartiest souls home.  The midnight fireworks display was canceled.  Coupled with an economic downturn that depressed button (ticket) sales and sponsorships, the drop in revenues put this year’s First Night in jeopardy.

But organizers weathered the storm.  A corps of dedicated volunteers created First Night 2010.  In keeping with new realities, it’s a slimmed-down celebration.  All entertainment is confined to downtown; the fireworks start at 9 p.m., and only a “Battle of the Bands” at Toquet Hall will run later.

Buttons cost $10, 1/3 off last year’s price (children under 2 go free). 

This being Westport, there is controversy.  The fireworks are too early! some people say.  I’m not gonna pay $10 until I know the schedule! others cry.  What if it snows again? someone wonders.

Hey:  Chill.  Give props to the small group of Westporters working  hard to make this one night fun, creative, even memorable.  First Night is a relatively new Westport tradition, and they’re doing their best to keep it alive.

Even if many Westporters are not sure they want it or not.

(For more information on Westport’s First Night — including volunteer and sponsorship opportunities, and button sales — click here.)

One response to “First Thoughts On First Night

  1. Linda Gramatky Smith

    Yes, we want it! And this is the year (at such a good price) to show the First Night volunteers that we appreciate what they’ve done. I have heard LOTS of Westporters rave/brag about our First Night, Dan, and most people if they go once they then make it a yearly tradition. Where else can any of us get a feeling of what “Westport used to be and still is”? A friendly family town where friendships and good fun and good entertainment are still in vogue.