Our History

Our Mission

To sponsor a town-wide festival of the visual and performing arts, family-friendly and alcohol-free, to usher in the New Year on December 31st of each year.

Our History

First Night Chatham began with the idea that our town of Chatham would be a perfect town for a celebration of the Arts on New Year’s Eve – it is a beautiful seaside village with churches, schools, a library, Town Hall, and other indoor and outdoor spaces all within easy walking distance. Chatham and Cape Cod are bursting with talented artists and performers of all kinds!

In January 1991, original founder Marie Williams went to see Marge Long, manager of the Puritan store on Main Street, to see if Marge thought this was a good idea. She did! And so they met with the Police Chief, and then the Fire Chief, the Board of Selectmen, and the Town Manager. Volunteers then formed a committee to bring First Night Chatham into being. Larry Hamilton volunteered to be Treasurer and continued in that post for many years. He is still a part of the Committee.

By March, more joined the Committee. Artist Gailyn Gates created the first button incorporating patriotic colors in a beach ball swirl. Buttons were ordered, tee-shirts were designed and printed and the project was off the ground.

Letti Sullivan and Marie Williams took on the task of rounding up artists and performers for the event. Marge Long became the volunteer coordinator. George Keith coordinated button sales from a card table in the Puritan store.

The word about First Night Chatham spread after the Fourth of July Parade float, a car in the Cranberry Harvest Festival, and a sign hung from a bridge crossing Route 6 on Labor Day to invite summer visitors back to town for New Year’s Eve.

First Night Chatham was a sellout a few days before the event and tickets had to be printed to handle the demand. The fireworks were spectacular, everyone had a good time, and the next day, the Committee was planning for the next year’s event!

Our Policies

Along the way, we have made several decisions which guide much of what we do and how we do it.

1. Everyone buys a button – there are no give-aways. We have no special packages for sponsors. Even the committee members purchase their own buttons. This has greatly simplified our accounting procedures and estimates of crowds.
2. To avoid overcrowding, we decided to limit button sales. As we added venues, we have increased the number of buttons sold, but we continue to limit button sales to 6,000 adults and 1,500 children.
3. Whenever possible we try to use First Night as an opportunity for young artists to perform. And we have tried to maintain a balance between local artists and entertainers and those from afar.
4. To the extent possible, we try to pay our entertainers for their talents. In the first few years, many of the entertainers agreed to perform for a very small stipend ($25) and several have declined to accept this token payment. They consider their performance to be their gift to the community. But we continue to want to reward our artists and entertainers for their talents and for what they do to make our world brighter and more interesting.
5. We strive to have a variety of entertainment for families and people of all ages.
6. All Sales Are Final.
7. There are no exchanges or refunds

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