Week 31: Volunteering New Year’s Eve at First Night Morris
Chased by Lego knights and pirate ships, stalked by 6 foot tall dinosaurs, time-warped to the 1930s to carve Mt. Rushmore, paralyzed by the siren’s song of a Metropolitan Opera Soprano….. is this a crazy, alcohol-fueled dream? Nope. This is how I rang in an eclectic and delightful New Year’s Eve at First Night Morris in Morristown, NJ.
These were just some of the 85 performances and activities in over 24 venues spread throughout the heart of Morristown. It was the 26th Annual First Night Morris and the program would not disappoint.
I had registered as one of hundreds of volunteers for the evening and had signed up for the early shift – 4:45 pm to 7:00 pm. This was the kick-off shift for the celebration and it focused on events and activities for children: hula hooping, arts & crafts, Korean dancing, dinosaurs, Cinderella and more. I was assigned as the Site Manager for Fun With Legos.
Piles and piles of Legos had taken over half the high school cafeteria and dozens of children, along with some of their parents and grandparents, were busy building. “Fun Play Bricks” was the vendor who’d brought all the Legos and set everything up. They were on hand to help the children build fantastical creations.
My job was the liaison between the vendor and First Night: keeping count of the participants and ensuring it did not get overcrowded, keeping an eye out for any security/behavior concerns or alcohol, greeting attendees and generally helping things along. It was an easy and fun role that came with huge perks like the fabulous dinner and dessert buffets open to all volunteers throughout the night back at headquarters.
As a volunteer I also received a free First Night button which gave me access to all the venues so that after my shift had ended I could enjoy any performance I wanted to attend.
The near-zero-degree weather did not frighten many people off from the celebration. Nearly 10,000 people flocked to Morristown to participate in First Night Morris. The event ran from 4:45 through midnight, with amazing firework displays over the town at both 9 p.m. and midnight. All of the venues were within walking distance to the center of town (the Green) and they provided shuttles to all the venues, which made getting around a snap. The event is a wonderful, family-friendly, alcohol-free celebration offering something for everyone: from dance, theater, rock, jazz and classical music, to visual arts, comedy, world cultural programs and more.
Entrance to any of the sites at the event is granted through purchase of a First Night Morris button (purchased either ahead of time or at various venues that night). That one button gave you access to everything. Many generous sponsors helped bring the evening to life. The nonprofit Morris Arts has been First Night Morris’ artistic programmer for all 26 years. Their mission is to build community through the Arts. They believe the arts are vital to the social fabric of any community, enrich lives and act as a catalyst for social change. They are passionate about providing unique and excellent programming for First Night and for their many other activities.
While I did not get to build with the Legos, I did get to speak with some of the attendees and other First Night staff. In this age of iPads and iPhones, video games and wi-fi, you’d think something as simple as a giant basket of Legos would hold little appeal to the children of today, but in fact the venue was packed from the start to the end of our time slot. Maybe it’s the excitement of creating something from scratch or engineering architectural feats from your imagination. Before I left that evening Donna, the owner of “Fun Play Bricks”, told me that a 93 year-old grandfather building Legos with his grandson said playing with Legos made him remember what it was like as a child. I loved thinking about that spark of nostalgia and creative excitement! I took that feeling out with me into the rest of the event that night as I enjoyed some of the other performances and activities. Throughout the evening I saw couples and families enjoying the events, creating new memories and engaging in activities together.
The focus of the First Night Morris is to inspire, connect and engage and that’s exactly what they’ve achieved in this wonderful program!
To learn more about First Night Morris please visit: https://firstnightmorris.com/
To learn more about Morris Arts, please visit: http://www.morrisarts.org/
To learn more about “Fun Play Bricks” check out their Facebook page at: https://Fun_Play_Bricks_With_Donna