Thursday, December 24, 1998
Highlights of the ever-expanding First Night Monterey this year include a completely new performance area and a bigger procession than ever.
Now in its fifth year, the crowd attending the annual alcohol-free New Year''s Eve celebration has grown from about 9,000 in its first year to more than 30,000 last year. The growing numbers have forced festival organizers to expand their territory outwards from downtown in order to capture more venues.
This year, in addition to the performance areas in downtown Monterey, Custom House Plaza and Old Fisherman''s Wharf, five performance sites have been added in the neighborhood near San Carlos Cathedral and the YMCA. The venues include both the cathedral and the YMCA building as well as the Parish Hall, the Boy Scout House and the cathedral parking lot.
"We felt like we had pretty much booked our original footprint," says First Night Executive Director Paulette Lynch. "We were delighted the San Carlos Parish was so cooperative and allowed us to use all those buildings. It allowed us to have a lot of groups that are real treasures to return, and we could introduce new groups, and groups from outside the area. There''s a little more elbow room for people who want to get away from the crowds."
Lynch notes that it''s important, when expanding the geographical range of the festival, to find locations that offer multiple performance spaces in the new area so that no individual venue is isolated.
Dancers will find plenty of reasons to kick their heels up at the Parish Hall, where the evening''s theme is "Swing, Swing, Swing." The Dizzy Burnett Quartet performs at 6:30pm and 7:30pm, with Nouveau Jazz playing at 9pm and 10pm. In the parking lot, children will be entertained by Todd Victor and Jest in Time, alternating with Forever Kids from 6:30pm to 9:30pm. The cathedral hosts classical music with I Cantori di Carmel at 7pm, 7:45pm, and 8:30pm, and the Laurel Wind Quintet at 9:30pm and 10:30pm. At the Scout House, The Blue Tones (7pm and 8 pm) and Horris (9:15pm and 10:15pm) provide the rock ''n'' roll. And at the YMCA, cowboy singer Mike Beck opens the festivities at 7pm, 7:45pm and 8:30pm, followed by the Horan Turkish Ensemble (featuring Latif Bolat) and participatory dancing at 9:15pm and 10:30pm.
Whatever choice audiences make, they will still have time to make it downtown to watch the closing procession.
"The procession is going to be more exciting than ever," says Lynch. "More than ever, we have a lot of floats and bigger units participating. Some of the floats are a result of our outreach programs."
During the year, First Night Monterey enlists artists to work with youth groups around the county to create floats, sculptures and other displays for the festival.
"Together, they (the artists and the students) decide what they''re going to do," says Lynch. "In that way, the artists get a whole team to work on something and they get an extraordinary opportunity to work with young people. The artists are facilitators, mentors and models--but it is the students'' ideas."
Outreach programs for the year involved work with the Big Sur Arts Initiative (Big Sur), Community Partnership for Youth (Seaside and Marina), CSUMB (Seaside), Genesis House (Seaside), Girl Scouts of Monterey County, Ombuddies/National Charities League (Seaside), Salvation Army/Kid''s Cafe Program (Salinas), and the YMCA (Monterey).
The projects range from "a flotilla of wizards" by the Big Sur Arts Initiative (under the direction of Sandy Smith) to a float designed by Kathryn Jones and CSUMB art students, to a sculpture created by Jose Ortiz and 40 youth involved in the Salvation Army''s Kid''s Cafe Program.
"Most of these kids have been at the periphery for quite some time," says Lynch. "What First Night is able to do is augment the works of these programs and give these kids a voice. I like to think it moves them from the periphery in to center stage and I really think that''s how they feel." cw
Admission badges for First Night Monterey are available for $10 at locations throughout Monterey County including Safeway grocery stores, Longs Drugs and Mailboxes Etc. Additional information and admission badges are also available through the First Night website, www.firstnightmonterey.org, or by calling 373-4778.