Good Reads 12.31.20

Excerpted from an article that was originally published in the Weekly on Dec. 20, 2018.

Ellen Martin is the executive director of the family-friendly, alcohol-free, creativity-championing New Year’s Eve party known as First Night Monterey. But the party, now in its 26th year, wouldn’t happen without an army of 100-125 volunteers. Here, in their words, are why and how volunteers work the biggest end-of-the-year party in town.

Ron and Carol Beck have for two years worked the Monterey City Council chambers, which has hosted folk music.

“It’s a historic room, with nice artwork,” Carol says. “Ellen is careful about who she puts in there.”

It’s been a mellow assignment. They’ve made friends with other volunteers and joined a ski and social club through their association. After the events, the Monterey couple drive home.

“If it wasn’t for the damn hill, we’d walk,” Ron says.

Michael Goldberg’s most resonant recollection is that of another volunteer.

“Ralph Neal. A 97-year-old man, well known around town,” Goldberg says. “It was fun. He was very active, very sharp.”

They worked at the temporary office next to Golden State Theatre, where they issued two-way radios to volunteers and workers: “Nothing spectacular,” Goldberg says. “It had to be done.”

Hal Laughlin says First Night used to be even bigger, encompassing Fisherman’s Wharf and Custom House Plaza. He was a site manager and played in the Hootenanny Band, but mostly sets up and strikes down stuff with his own cordless drill and a bunch of drill bits.

“One time it went real late, too long of a night,” he says. “3pm to 3am, driving a truck around.”

Jerry Azevedo and Rebecca Perry are married, run Monterey’s Tuba Christmas, and work First Night together.

“We are a team,” he says. “Our tradition is to listen to the free street music, [watch] face painting on Colton Hall lawn, then we’ll wander farther downtown, pick up our assignments, go to our venue and start working at 5pm.”

They usually work at live music venues, checking credentials and serving as ushers, then they leave the party early.

“We walk home under the stars. It’s usually nice and cold and crisp. We think of the music, the people, the stellar tradition, as we walk home.”

Camille Seville of Salinas does the announcing during the parade of performance and civic groups, children’s schools and bands. She’s worked at radio and television stations, and was announcing at the Harvest Fair in Greenfield when Martin asked if she would like to work First Night.

“I have to be an announcer,” Seville joked. But it turned out that one of the longtime parade announcers got sick three years ago, so Seville stepped in.

One time, over the P.A., she praised the free hot cocoa Monterey firefighters hand out, and saw the crowd rush their station. 

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