History & Heritage: Recalling First Night - Montclair Local News

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Although not all cultures, almost everyone in the world celebrates New Year’s Eve

Start the new year on the same day. Many Christians participate in church activities to reflect on the past years and how to make the next year better through an activity called "Night Watch". The entire church service in Montclair has been (and still is) a symbol. This was an important year for the North Fullerton (Old) Methodist Church and was built on the same site in 1902 by its successor, the First Methodist Church. The church is in the Central Presbyterian Church and the African American church is in town. On December 31, 1862, "The Vigil" had a special significance in the African American community. At that time, many African Americans gathered in their churches to await the confirmation of the Emancipation Proclamation. The declaration was made in September 1862 and will take effect on January 1, 1863.

One of Montclair's most memorable ways to celebrate New Year's Eve is "First Night". "First Night" was founded in Boston in 1976 by artist, event organizer Clara Wainwright and her artist friends. The group is looking for a way to showcase the talents of various artists and celebrate New Year's Eve in an alcohol-free, family-friendly way. Even though it was only 6 degrees outside, 65,000 people attended the first event in Boston. Artists perform in non-traditional venues such as churches and restaurants. Thanks to company sponsors and modest admission fees, people bought blanket tickets to get them into any performance on a first-come, first-served basis until every venue was fully occupied. The night was obscured by fireworks. The event quickly spread all over the world until people in 200 different cities liked it.

On the last day of 1988, Montclair became the first city in New Jersey to host a "first night" event. According to reports in the Montclair Times in 1988 and 1989, Celia Eller Collins and her husband Brandon Collins knew each other well the first night they lived in Charlottesville, Virginia. They moved to Montclair and shared their story with real estate agent Bill Marsh. Bill's wife Ronnie worked in the Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs (PRCA). Bill, Ronnie, Celia and Brandon contacted PRCA director Perry Doerr to see if they could work in Montclair. They all think this is a good idea. Things started cooking in April 1988. Bill Marsh was elected as the chairman of the committee. They began to look for behaviors and contributions, and sought help from volunteers. Doerr and his colleague Irv Goldstone went to Boston to learn how to organize the event.

In the end, 60 artists performed in 26 different locations, all of which were within walking distance of the Central Business District. As the date approaches, sales are unusually slow, and the organizers worry that this event will fail. However, sales have soared in the past 48 hours, with all 8,000 buttons priced at $5 each. Those looking for buttons on the day of the event must be turned away.

From storytellers like Mike Agranoff and Montclair's Gerry Fierst to Montclair's own Bobby Reilly (Bobby Reilly) ) Poems, to the square dance convened by Frank Bartholemew (Frank Bartholemew), there are incredible performances. There were too many performers in the first year, let alone list them here for the next few years. There are magicians like John Bundy the magician, dancers like Fiddlestick Cloggers, Samia who performs Middle Eastern dance, and modern stylist Lillo Way. Jean Rapicano performed a large puppet show at the YMCA on Park Street. Yass Hakoshima, a world-class imitator, attracted the audience in the hillside school auditorium.



There are stoves in the crane house in Israel for cooking, and discussions about old movies led by Pastor Paul Leggett and John Skilling of the Montclair Public Library. Music works are almost endless, such as Shad Royful and his Swing orchestra, singer/composer/pianist/Montclair resident Horace Ott co-created "Do n't Let Me Be Misunderstood", which is very popular in the animal world , Simone Coonrod Classical Trio, NJ Chamber Music Society, Irish singer and harpist Aideen O'Donnell, Belmont Brass, guitarist Victor Kerendjiev, Park Avenue Barbershop Quartet and rock band Uforia. Some people think the New Jersey Ballet's performance by the "Nutcracker Suite" in the pas de deux is the headline news. Hard to say. There are things for all tastes. The night started with a parade along Church Street led by Stella Clark, on stilts, and finally fireworks at the hillside school.

In the next 22 years, the "first night" continued to surpass year by year, reaching a peak of 12,000 participants. Financial constraints and low attendance rates forced them to scale down in the final years. The New Jersey Ballet returns often. Other great performances include rock band Little Feat, rock singer and Montclair resident Warren Zanes, and Big Apple Circus. In 2011, township manager Marc Dashield said that there would be no “first night” events that year, but there was a small surplus compared to the previous year.

They spent enough money to participate in the 2011/12 New Year's Eve performance, but only 2,000 people participated.

There is no "first night" in 2013.

The wonderful tradition becomes history.

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