Founded in 1991, First Night Chatham is a family-friendly celebration of the New Year, boasting talented local artists, entertaining performers and participatory events. This year promises to be a bright, spectacular event with the theme “Light Up the Town.”By Julia Appicelli
1. Become a part of history
Chatham kicks off First Night festivities with a town photo taken at noon on Dec. 31 in front of the Chatham Lighthouse. Join the historic photo collection by bringing your family, and even your pets, to celebrate the Chatham community.
2. Notable performances
The Handbell Ringers Ensemble from the Chatham and Harwich Congregational Churches play patriotic, folk and classic songs; pianist Jacqueline Schwab has a wide repertoire that includes Civil War tunes, traditional Celtic music and ragtime; and Four Guys in Tuxes is a quartet that plays swing, society and classic rock. The event features longtime favorites Cape Cod Fiddlers and multiple singers, including Whatley and Earle, a vocal duo that performs famous Broadway show tunes, and Peking and the Mystics, an a cappella group that
sings vintage vocals from swing to jazz to pop.
3. Fabulous Fireworks
The first display over Veterans Field begins after the noise parade for the younger audience and continues at midnight over Oyster Pond. The fireworks are huge and bright and complemented by the Countdown Cod, lowered on a crane over the pond until the stroke of midnight. You’ll never want to watch a regular ball drop again!
4. Let some noise out
Join the crowds as they parade through the streets of Chatham making as much noise as they can, using horns, instruments or their voices in the Noise Parade, an event led by the
5. Get some exercise
Dress in outlandish costumes to run or walk the two-mile Carnival Caper Run, sponsored by the Chatham Squire, and participate in a costume contest.
The mission of First Night is to create a festival of the arts that is family-friendly and alcohol-free, in order to provide a New Year’s celebration that will entertain all ages. There are many events for families and children, like the bubble wrap stomp, face painting, miniature golf, a family fun center and Ryder Martin’s trains. There are even special-event rooms, showcasing younger bands and fun games for high school and middle school students.
7. Have fun at the circus
Everyone loves going to the circus, laughing and being amazed by each act, and First Night is no different; Cirque du Jour is so popular there are four performances throughout the day, making it a must-see event. Quick tip: Be sure to get there early because people typically start lining up an hour or more before the early afternoon performances.
8. Start your button collection
The buttons used as tickets to certain events are designed to showcase Chatham landmarks and the theme of the celebration, from the first button in 1991 designed by Gailyn Gates, which displayed a beach ball swirl in patriotic colors, to a silver star for last year’s 25th anniversary silver jubilee. This year’s theme is “Light Up the Town,” and the button features iconic images of Chatham, such as Chatham Lighthouse and the Whit Tileston Band Stand.
9. Witness artists at work
The South Cape Ice Sculptors are stationed throughout the streets of Chatham, prompting “oohs” and “ahhs” from passersby. The sculptors use picks and chainsaws to shape the ice into various designs, from musical themes to a 25th anniversary sculpture.
10. Eat your heart out
A variety of food vendors are stationed on Main Street, including the delicious Chocolate Café Buzz Bus and Wicked Good Kettle Corn, while even more food is available inside the different venues, like Porky’s BBQ of Cape Cod and the Pampered Palate.
11. Hop on a carriage ride
Horse-drawn carriages allow attendees to ride to their destinations and for a few moments, imagine that they are traveling back in time. Sit back and enjoy the bumpy trip through town just as the ancestors of Chatham once did.