First Night Working To Retain Iconic Countdown Cod

By: Tim Wood

The Countdown Cod may not appear at First Night this year. FILE PHOTO


CHATHAM – For the first time in a decade, First Night revelers may welcome in the new year without the Countdown Cod.

First Night officials were working this week on the logistics to include the illuminated cod in the midnight countdown after earlier deciding to forego the fish after its builder and owner moved out of town.

This week, however, Richard Clifford said he'd be happy to provide the cod but could not coordinate the countdown, as he'd done in the past. First Night Chairman Ron Clark said the group is seeking a midnight countdown coordinator to do just that, and he was scrambling to find a crane to lower the cod for the New Year's Eve countdown.

“It's an iconic part of First Night. We're happy to have it back,” Clark said. But as of Tuesday there were a lot of moving parts in the mix, he added. “If we can work it all out, the cod may be back this year.”

He said he hoped to nail down the details by the end of the week, when the event's program goes to press.

Beginning in 2007, the illuminated codfish, created by Richard Clifford, descended from a crane at Oyster Pond as the crowd counted down to midnight and the fireworks that culminate the day-long celebration. Made out of aluminum rods, 204 polycarbonate panels, many spools of wire, with a prism-like piece of plastic down the center illuminated by 20 halogen lights, the Countdown Cod gave the finale a colorful and especially local touch.

After learning that Clifford had moved, the group canceled the crane and made other arrangements for the midnight ceremony. This Dec. 31 at Oyster Pond, beginning at about 11:30 p.m., local resident Scott Hamilton will lead a “musical countdown to midnight” with a series of familiar songs running up to the midnight countdown and fireworks. As in the past, the countdown will be facilitated by a timer on a giant screen courtesy of Stephen Williams and Click Cape Cod, Clark said.

The First Night committee created the midnight countdown coordinator to oversee the midnight activities at Oyster Pond, excluding the fireworks, which are handled by a separate committee. According to the group's website, the job entails coordinating logistics, ensuring the event runs smoothly, and organizing a group of helpers to erect mesh fencing at Oyster Pond a few days before the festivities and taking it down afterwards.

The theme of this year's 27th annual First Night is “Oh Those '60s!,” featuring entertainment concentrating on the decade.

The First Night committee is busy making preparations for the celebration, which involves dozens of venues and nearly 100 performers and special events. Most years First Night buttons, which provide admission to most performances, sell out.

More than 350 volunteer hours are necessary to produce one of the longest-running and most successful First Night celebrations in the country. Many afternoon and evening shifts are still available. Special event volunteers are also being sought, including face painters, teen event chaperons, horse and wagon ride marshals, children's art studio helpers, and various setup and removal functions.

Along with the midnight countdown coordinator, the committee is searching for someone to supervise the Children's Art Studio. The afternoon activity runs from 2 to 5 p.m. on Dec. 31 at Chatham Elementary School. Kids create a simple craft project like something to wear or a noise maker for the noise parade. The leader of this activity coordinates with other volunteers to pick the projects and provide the materials and tools to put them together as well as supervising the activity.
Without a leader to step forward, the Children's Art Studio may have to be canceled. More information is available at; interested folks can also contact First Night Chatham directly at 508-945-1122.

A pizza party/orientation meeting for volunteers will be held at the First United Methodist Church on Thursday, Dec. 28 at 5 p.m. Police and fire department representatives will provide a briefing on public safety, committee chairpersons will give short comments and smaller groups will provide information pertinent to working at each venue. Paper copies of volunteer instructions and volunteer buttons will be available. Sandwiches, donuts, and coffee will be available for volunteers from 6 to 11 p.m. at First Night headquarters on First Night.

For more information or to volunteer, contact volunteer co-chairperson Carol Kolb at 508-432-6810 or email

First Night admission buttons are available via the event's website,, or at several local shops, including the Chatham Clothing Bar, Cape Cod Five Chatham branch, Chatham Light Liquors, Larry's PX, Puritan Clothing Chatham store, Snow's Home and Garden in Orleans, South Chatham Liquors, and Where the Sidewalks Ends Bookstore. Buttons, which cost $20 for adults and $5 for children 3 to 11, are required for admission to most First Night events. for a full schedule, visit the First Night website.

First Night headquarters is expected to open downtown at the Chatham Clothing Company at 579 Main St. in mid-December, Clark said. Schedules and buttons will be available there at that time.