In a normal year, veteran First Night volunteer Diane Dahm would coordinate over 100 volunteers throughout Monterey. She lists their assignments: “We have volunteers at all the venues. There are people who buy their buttons on the day-of, so we need volunteers for that table. We need volunteers to greet other volunteers.” This year there are around 10. Mostly they’ve been helping send out flyers, buttons and swag for this year’s First Night celebration, which is going virtual.
“We didn’t even know if it was going to happen this year,” Executive Director Ellen Martin says. Then came requests, including one from Monterey City Manager Hans Uslar. “He emailed saying that there wouldn’t be any funding, but please make it happen.” Challenge accepted.
As planning began in late summer, Martin also happened to have a conversation with Sunset Center’s executive and artistic director, Christine Sandin, who was about to wrap up Sunset Center’s drive-in series.
Martin saw the opportunity: Sunset Center could provide First Night Monterey with pre-recorded content, repurposed to reach a wider audience than the Carmel venue’s 32-car parking lot setup. “When the content was first seen it was pretty limited,” Sandin says. “You could call it fortuitous coincidence.”
Sandin worked with artists to acquire broadcasting rights and repackage the show into First Night Monterey’s virtual celebration. She also helped find technical consultants.
This year’s virtual celebration will see many familiar faces including Marina-based choreographer Fran Spector Atkins who shares the debut of her work In Real Time, a piece that asked past company dancers to show – through dance – what a post-Covid world will look like. It will include longtime partner MY Museum, which instead of a WheelieMobilie (their decked out outreach van) will instead have a creative story time with Cassidy Adkins (aka Ms. Cassidy) and Zumbini (think Zumba for kids and babies) with Sharon Jackson (aka Miss Jackson).
Martin will also bring in performances from three other First Night celebrations across the nation, including her hometown of Springfield, Illinois and the festivities will end with a fireworks show – the first in more than 20 years. The final product will be a nine-hour event that viewers can tune in and out of. “There’s something for everyone,” Martin says.
As for Dahm, the longtime First Night volunteer, she had no doubt that the community and the loyal following of the organization would pull through. “People are looking for a reason to celebrate,” she says. “This year has been tough and people still want to do something for New Year’s Eve.”
FIRST NIGHT MONTEREY starts screening at 3pm on their YouTube channel. Buttons run from $40-$100. firstnightmonterey.org