Tuesday, December 31, 1996

New Years Eve

We went to First Night in Westerly.

First Night is a December 31st public festival/celebration that began, I believe, in Boston some dozen or so years ago. At any rate, First Night in Boston is probably the biggest and best known. The practice has spread, especially in New England. Providence also celebrates First Night. Newport has something similar, but they call it Opening Night (or something like that). Last year Westerly, a lovely coastal village in the corner of Rhode Island adjoining Connecticut, began celebrating First Night.

So this year, we decided to try First Night in Westerly. As with other First Night celebrations, you purchase a button that entitles you to free entry to all events. These include various musical and/or theatrical performances, exhibitions, etc., events for kids, for adults, for families. In large cities transportation is needed from venue to venue and your First Night button will get you onto shuttle buses or get you free public transit. Westerly's central business district only covers a few blocks (although they did have shuttle service to outlying parking areas). Among the events they had scheduled was a midnight fireworks display. This was to feature their own version of a midnight ball drop. They also planned to distribute kazoos to the crowd and hoped to have perhaps three thousand people playing kazoos, gaining entry to the Guiness book of records for world's largest kazoo band. I'll have to check tomorrow's paper to be sure, but the weather turned very cold today and I think the cold caused a major reduction in crowd size.

It was 17 degrees (F) when we got to Westerly early this evening. The crowds were staying indoors as much as possible and scurrying quickly along the streets between venues. The frigid evening cut the crowds and also much of the planned outdoor activity (everything from stilt walking to karate demonstrations to velcro wall clinging), taking away from the desired festive atmosphere. (The ice scupture in the park, however, was in no danger of melting... and it really was magnificent.)I felt sorry for the vendor standing in the arctic chill attemping to sell balloons and glow-necklaces and similar toys to people who were intent only on getting from one building to the next.

Nickelodeon was there in a (somewhat) heated tent in the YMCA parking lot doing slightly scaled down (in messiness) versions of their tv games for kids. Although the pies-in-the-face were as messy as you might expect and the top winner (!?!) did get slimed. The hosts (whose names I do not know but I recognized them from having seen them on Nick) were every bit as frenetic and hyperactive here on location as they appear on tv... and their audience loved them. I think they are going to be taping some stuff later this week at Foxwoods resort for use on the air. There was a cameraman at their First Night performances, but I do not know if any of the tape he shot will end up on the air... If you should happen to see some balloon popping or pie passing stunts where the audience and most of the contestants are wearing winter coats, etc., you may be seeing part of Westerly's First Night.

We found a talented young magician/juggler ("Tom the Fool") performing in the public library and some amusing story tellers in the town hall. By 9:30 many families with young children were heading home. (There had been a 6pm fireworks display especially for younger kids who couldn't stay up until midnight.) We wandered to the rock dance party in the parking garage being put on by a d.j. from "The Edge" (WDGE, an alternative rock station) but the temperature by then had dropped to ten degrees (and that is actual reading, without factoring in wind-chill effects) and was still headed down.

Family vote was to head home and celebrate New Years inside and warm.

I understand that Jay Leno will be featuring Miss Piggy reporting live from Times Square when the ball drops at midnight. I think I'll close this entry and head for the living room. (If my daughter ever gets off the phone maybe I'll even get to post this to my website.)

Happy New Year everyone. Welcome to 1997.

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