CHATHAM – What do you call an event that starts off with a group photo of hundreds of people in front of an iconic lighthouse pauses for a raucous noise parade up Main Street and ends with the lowering of a giant shimmering steel cod over Oyster Pond? First Night Chatham.
In its 27 years of going strong, First Night Chatham never fails to deliver, even when the mercury hovers around 10 degrees for the entire event as it did this year.
Bundled up participants scurried from venue to venue—mostly churches along Main Street—to take in dozens of performances by local musicians and other entertainment.
A special hat’s off to the early fireworks that take place at about 6:30pm at Veteran’s Field behind the Chatham Community Center. (Not to be confused with the second fireworks that take place at midnight at Oyster Pond after the lowering of that shimmering cod). It is such a treat for kids to be able to make all the noise and ruckus they want while parading up Main Street with horns and then enjoy a spectacular fireworks display—up close and personal—in the field behind the Community Center.
The festivities kick off with the Chatham Town Photo, which takes place in front of the Chatham Lighthouse and Coast Guard Station, festooned with a huge wreath with red ribbon. Set overlooking Lighthouse Beach, we all shivered and shuddered from the icy breezes off the Atlantic Ocean while waiting for the photographer, perched high in a bucket lifted up on by a Chatham Fire Department ladder truck. That’s right. Cape Cod Wave’s intrepid staff was in the photo. We were next to the guy in the red coat; behind the kids with the funny hats; in front of the people holding poinsettias on their heads and close to the guy holding his dalmatian in his arms.
While waiting for the photographer to snap the photo of what looked like more than 1,000 of us, many in goofy hats, we met Phil, a guy whose special first night full-length red coat was festooned with all 27 years of First Night Chatham buttons. Phil said he has been to every First Night Chatham except the first one, because he and his wife moved to town a few months after the first event. His collection of First Night town photos decorates his basement.
A few hours later, there was Phil again and hundreds of others out in the cold near the iconic Chatham Squire to watch the brave runners in the Carnival Caper, a New Year’s Eve costumed two-mile run from the Squire to the Lighthouse and back to the Squire. Special kudos to those who accomplished the run in crazy costumes—incredible good sports considering the temperature was about 12 degrees.
All afternoon and evening, venues throughout Chatham were packed with First Night patrons enjoying terrific local musicians playing 45 minute sets. There was a pause from the mini-concerts for the annual Noise Parade at 6pm up Main Street to the Community Center. A concession stand selling plastic trumpets was doing a brisk business all afternoon and then the parade began. There is really no way to describe this cacophonous and joyous nonsensical communal tromp except to say, “You had to be there.”
After the parade, with the mercury dipping below 10 degrees, hundreds of people—families snuggled together—stood around the ballfield and watched a thrilling round of fireworks that lit up the winter sky.
The early fireworks display was followed by more performances all evening, ending, for us, with the tremendous George Gritzbach Band at the St. Martin’s Lodge, and then it was over to Oyster Pond for the dropping of the iconic giant steel cod shimmering against the black sky. We huddled with others, counting down to midnight, and then ooohed and aaahed, though, we admit, we watched the final display from the relative warmth of our car, as the fireworks shot up in colorful blossoms above the partially frozen Oyster Pond.
That was some first night. Let’s hope the rest of the year is this good. Happy New Year from Cape Cod Wave!
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– A Novel By Brian Tarcy of Cape Cod Wave
A softball team called the Townies. A slick developer with a sketchy story. A town divided over a zoning change….— YOU CAN’T SELL RIGHT FIELD, A Cape Cod Novel