by Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter, 11/1998
It began in the summer of 1993. Oh, others had talked about it and kicked around the idea for a while, but the real beginnings were during that summer. Bob and Jane Webster — both veteran Jaycees and already active in the community — wanted Foxboro to have its very own First Night New Year’s event. No need to drive to Boston or Providence — right here in town there would be a non-alcoholic New Year’s celebration for the entire family. Shows. Dances. Food. Fun. Something for all.
So the Websters formed a small non-profit committee, and through the hot days of summer, the crisp autumn, and right into the Christmas season — the small group met regularly to discuss the unbelievable number of details associated with this endeavor.
Sue and I served on the very first committee, along with Carol Paulson, Larry Foster, Paul O’Sullivan, Karen Mordaunt, and Dick Mordaunt. My role was mostly designing some signs and pictures, and helping with the little things, but I gained a great understanding of the magnitude of the work necessary to pull off an event of this scale.
You’d be amazed what goes into something like this: Booking acts, securing permits, getting the best prices on things like ice sculptures, renting tents and generators, buying horns and noise makers, asking for parking spaces, designing a logo and button and having the button mass-produced, writing the charter, asking local churches and business to lend their locations for the night, coordinating hundreds of details with local officials, police, fire fighters and emergency medical personal. The task list was enormous.
There were hundreds of questions: What are the emergency procedures? How much will buttons cost? What should the format of the program be? Should we have a countdown for the kids who can’t stay up until midnight? How will we know when it is exactly 12:00? Could we run a dance for the teen-agers? Will everything be really within walking distance from the Common? Is this person available the entire night? What if it snows? How many people will fit safely in that hall? Will there be enough chowder? When is the deadline for application for this permit? Who will make sure each patron has a button?
There was this, and much more. The details were endless.
Despite the sheer magnitude of the task (not to mention that no one had ever attempted something like this in Foxboro before) you will recall that in January 1994, Foxboro was basking in the afterglow of something very special that had occurred the previous New Year’s Eve — the town’s inaugural First Night celebration had been a huge success.
This wonderful first town-wide New Year’s party had clowns, magic shows, chowder fests, chili fests, magicians, plays, shows, dances, poetry readings and much more. Literally something for all.
Every local group: Jaycees, Knights of Columbus, Rotary and many more pitched in to help. Foxborians came out in droves to enjoy the novelty of a “First Night” right here in town. There was a great sense of community, and everyone enjoyed the festivities.
For weeks, editorials of praise and letters to the editor flooded the paper. The inaugural first night was a hit.
While Sue, Carol, Larry and I only served on the first year’s committee, the Websters, Paul, Karen, Dick, Andrea McGillicuddy, MaryEllen Davis, and Ellen Davis ran four more successful years — each one better than the last. The committee remained small in number, but each year there were more details, more events, more to do.
The recent announcement that the First Night committee will not be presenting a New Year’s Eve celebration this year is sad, but certainly understandable. The project has grown huge, the scope more and more complex, and the committee has been the same small number of people each year. Too much to do, and not enough people to do it.
Which brings me to the point — this column is a genuine, heartfelt thank you letter to Bob, Jane, Andrea, Ellen, MaryEllen, Paul, Karen and Dick. Thank you very much from everyone in Foxboro. For the last five years you have sacrificed your free time for months on end to make Foxboro’s New Year’s celebration happen. You have worked tirelessly to make each year better than the last and given the people of this town a superb celebration that was unique to Foxboro. Your efforts are truly appreciated by thousands of people.
Perhaps in the future someone or some group may pick up this project and continue this fine tradition — perhaps not. But I think I speak for all of Foxboro when I say thank you to the Foxboro First Night committee for taking so much of your own time and efforts to bring such a wonderful event to Foxboro for five years in a row. Thank you for creating it in the first place and making each year better. Foxboro will always remember your generosity in making the first night of the year much more memorable and fun for all us.