CHATHAM – By early this week, some 80 percent of this year's 7,500 First Night Chatham buttons had been sold. While the New Year's Eve event regularly sells out, the buttons are disappearing faster and faster every year. Usually they're gone by the early afternoon Dec. 31; last year it was 10 a.m.
A steady stream of button buyers stopped by First Night headquarters, tucked just off Main Street behind Bella of Cape Cod, and foot traffic will likely increase mid week after local shops stop selling buttons and the event headquarters becomes the only outlet for the pins that allow admission to dozens of events scheduled throughout town New Year's Eve. Online sales, which account for about 20 percent of the buttons sold, end today.
Everything is in place for another family-friendly celebration, said Ron Clark, chairman of the First Night Chatham committee. About the only thing that could interfere now is the weather; he's been watching the 10-day forecast closely since it included Dec. 31.
“It looks like we're going to get some rain, but the 31st looks nice, chilly but clear,” he said Monday.
Now in its 26th year, First Night features more than 70 performers ranging from a full-fledged circus to classical pianists. This year's theme is “Light up the Town,” and the focus has been on recognizing the event's more than 200 volunteers, said Clark. There's been an extra effort to recruit more participants, led by Carol Kolb, and find ways to show how much they are appreciated.
“Without our volunteers, it really doesn't work,” Clark said. “We try to make it an easy job.” Volunteers will gather tonight for a briefing that includes the representatives from the fire and police departments and short lessons in crowd control. Not that it ever gets ugly, Clark said, but there's a right way to make sure that venues are cleared after performances and people who may have to wait in line are treated respectfully. A reception for volunteers will be held Jan. 12 at the Creative Arts Center.
Along with events that require buttons for admission, there are a number of free events – the Carnival Caper road race at 3 p.m., the 6 p.m. Noise Parade – this year led by the Chatham Orpheum Theater in honor of its 100th anniversary – followed by fireworks at Veterans Field, special events for middle and high school teens, and a number of other performers around town.
There are only a few changes to the published schedule, Clark reported. Storyteller Darby Hobbs had to cancel, as did a planned “Chocolate Cafe” at the middle school. A Belgian waffle maker has been added to the food offerings, stationed at the Methodist Church. A real live prince and princess will also be available for photo ops at the life-size Candy Land game at St. Christopher's Church, a venue that will be more kid-focused this year, Clark said.
From the town photo at the Chatham Lighthouse at noon, taken this year by Spencer Kennard – prints of which will be available soon after at CVS – to the final drop of the Countdown Cod and midnight fireworks at Oyster Pond, First Night Chatham, months in the planning stages, is ready to go.
“We're actually pretty relaxed,” Clark said, noting that the 50-member core committee and its subcommittee heads have everything well in hand. “All we're doing now is selling buttons and keeping our fingers crossed for weather,” Clark said.
See a full schedule of First Night events plus more in our special First Night supplement here.
Watch www.CapeCodChronicle.com for photos from First Night.