First Night Monterey 12/26/2002
Party with the people, inside and out.
Thursday, December 26, 2002
Photo:Taking It To The Streets: John "Broadway" Tucker (left) brings the blues to the Monterey Conference Center at 9:30pm and 10:30pm, while prop comic Fred Anderson (right) holds forth earlier in the day with his music, magic and juggling.
Paulette Lynch is a busy woman this week. She''s executive director of First Night Monterey, now a matter of days away, and there are still so many things left up in the air. Will the resolution piece--a 1,500 square-ft. installation inside the Monterey Conference Center--involve snorkeling pigs as well as the fish and imaginary sea creatures already made by kids in the organization''s outreach programs? And what about the big parade, which is going in a different direction this year? Is everything ready for the after-parade Jubilee celebration, when the public will be able to view the floats and meet performers up close and personal? Most of all, how the heck will it all come together in time?
It will. Lynch will see to that.
If you''ve never been to a First Night celebration, there are some basic things to know. For one thing, there''s no alcohol. In fact, that''s the point--a safe and sober way to celebrate the New Year with the entire family. What there is in abundance is entertainment, from the aforementioned parade, to stilt walkers, to poetry readings, to rock bands. There are opportunities to make arts and crafts, post your New Year''s resolutions in the Conference Center installment, see Chinese lion dancers, and participate in just about any kind of activity you can think up. People throng to the event each year to see what''s new and to just be a part of the once-a-year street gathering that takes up much of downtown Monterey.
First Night got its start in Boston in 1976 as a sober celebration of the New Year''s arrival. The idea spread all over the country, and as Boston celebrates its 25th First Night this year, Monterey kicks off its tenth. And for that we can thank Paulette Lynch.
A Bostonian herself, Lynch moved to California over a decade ago, but visits her native city each December. She was inspired by the New Year''s Eve celebrations there, and attended a conference on First Night which she describes as "one of those serendipitous things." When she came back to the Peninsula that year, she started planning a way to bring the revelry to Monterey.
"It seemed like the absolute best thing for our community," Lynch explains. "It was the right thing at the right time." She presented the concept to Monterey Mayor Dan Albert, not so much asking for permission, she explains, as "making sure no one would stop it." Such was her determination that she hardly questioned the possibility of such a thing, just the "how?" And, of course, it did work.
This year the city''s police and parks departments are trying to figure out how to plan traffic and crowd control, something the First Night crew used to have to do for themselves. Over the years, the community and the powers-that-be have become more involved in, even integral to the event. Instead of something that is merely happening in Monterey, it has become part of what Monterey does as a community to bring in the new year.
This year''s festivities will feature performances by area faves John "Broadway" Tucker and the Broadway Band in the Serra Ballroom at the Conference Center. Pacific Reperatory Theater presents classic fairy tales all twisted into hilarious fractured versions of themselves on the Custom House Plaza Stage. Garland Thompson hosts one of his highly irreverent poetry slams (might not want to bring the kids) at the First Theater. A one-man show about physicist Richard Feynman starring Noel Wood takes place at the Maritime Museum. Of course, that''s only some of what''s going on--the complete list with descriptions of all events is 21 pages long, available at www.firstnightmonterey.org, and at newsstands around town.
If you want to dance, you can pick any sort of music. There are places to listen to poetry and a place to scream it at the top of your lungs, if you feel the need. There are places designed to enrapture kids and places to entertain adults. Some of the community''s most popular performers and groups will make appearances within blocks of one another, all at the same time.
New this year is the SS First Night, a float in the parade that will feature the elderly disabled of Rippling River in Carmel Valley, dressed up as sea creatures. The integration of the Rippling River residents is only one of many First Night outreach programs. The organization deals with at-risk youth and the elderly especially, arranging to have artists teach 30-hour workshops, the fruits of which are featured at the New Year''s Eve celebration.
So this Tuesday it won''t be so much a decision of whether to go to First Night as what to choose to do once there. All in all, First Night 2003 promises to be dazzling.
First Night activities are scheduled on New Year''s Eve from 2pm until after midnight, throughout downtown Monterey. Buttons are $12 before Dec. 30, $15 the day of (kids under 5 are free) and are available at Longs Drugs, Mail Boxes Etc., and through the website. Parking shuttle runs from Del Monte Center until 1am. Call 373-4778 or visit www.firstnightmonterey.org for complete schedule.