More than 40 years ago, Boston welcomed the new year with a “First Night” celebration. The city was filled with activities: music performances, comedians, kids’ stuff, ice carving. It was fun, family-friendly and fresh.
In the years that followed, communities around the country organized their own First Nights. They were great ways to ring in the new year.
They were also a ton of work. Gradually, most First Nights fell by the wayside.
But not Westport’s. For 22 years, residents — and anyone else who wants to wander by — have flocked downtown on December 31.
We’ve enjoyed carriage rides and bounce houses; dance recitals and sword swallowers; Rock & Roll Hall of Fame musicians and classical pianists; comedy troupes and model train displays. We’ve gazed at the stars through telescopes, warmed ourselves by bonfires, and watched fireworks light the sky. (Unless, of course, the river freezes and the barge can’t get near the bridge.)
First Night Westport would not be possible without volunteers. For over 2 decades, Westporters of all ages have helped make it happen.
But none of it would be possible without Barbara Pearson-Rac. She’s the longtime president of the board of directors of First Night Westport — but even that title does not encompass what she does. She oversees — and rolls up her sleeves for — booking, scheduling, promoting, food, volunteers, on and on and on. Quite simply, without Barbara, there would be no First Night.
In her spare time, she’s chair and founder of Westport’s Make A Difference Day, and vice president of the Breast Cancer Survival Center.
Plus, she’s a published author (“On Track: A Diana Jeffries Mystery”).
I hope Barbara does not see that she is this week’s Unsung Hero. I hope she is taking a well-deserved rest, preferably on some warm tropical island.
But I doubt it.
(Do you know an Unsung Hero? Email firstname.lastname@example.org)