Monday, January 9, 2012

First Night Haddonfield 2012

I want to start by asking why is it called FIRST night, when I see it as the LAST night of the year?

With that out of the way, Don and I rang in 2012 wandering the streets of Haddonfield, NJ with First Night Haddonfield, while Ashley went to a friend's house for a sleepover.

In the 23 years Don and I have been celebrating New Year's Eve together, this is our sixth time attending a First Night program. 20 years ago we went to First Night Boston with Dan and Heather Lloyd. Since then we have been to First Night Wilmington twice (sad to see how much it shrank in 7 years), First Night Newtown, and First Night Ridgewood.

Haddonfield's was terrific. At $15 a person (even children) It was also one of the more expensive programs.

The First Night organization promotes family-friendly, alcohol-free ways to ring in the New Year. Often events are spaced out in different buildings, often with fireworks at some point in the evening, and the entertainment is varied. It reminds me of the winter version of Bethlehem's MusikFest.

This year December 31st was unseasonably warm, which made the event seem even more magical. Fireworks were shot off in the middle of their Main Street at 9 PM. Entertainment continued until midnight.

My favorite performance was by a Keith Henley, an underground railroad storyteller, telling the story of "Uncle Cecil" through story and song. The event was even more poignant because it took place in the Indian King Tavern, where New Jersey Constitution was written during the Revolutionary War, and past which British soldiers retreated from Philadelphia. Washington is not known to have slept there, but Dolley Madison was a frequent guest at the tavern.

Much of the entertainment was lighter than Mr. Henley's presentation. We listened to husband and wife duets on organ and piano, an electric violinist, acrobats and flamenco dancers.

Haddonfield is a cute town. Its claim to fame is finding the world's first dinosaur skeleton. It is an easy commute to Philadelphia. It is the type of town that is very walkable. The only thing it seemed to lack was open ice cream parlor that night.

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