When I was in my early 20s and took my first real steps as a singer-songwriter, Montclair was the place to go and join a creative community. The open mic nights in Montclair were the most engaged and supportive. This love for Montclair would stay in mind, so when Amy and I had the opportunity to move to this town 10 years ago we jumped at the chance!
One of my great memories of Montclair and the arts was their annual New Year’s Eve celebration, First Night Montclair, full of entertainment for all ages and a very festive community atmosphere. When Holly came into the picture, First Night was cancelled, never to return. What would have been a great, festive New Year’s celebration for our little girl, was not to be.
So imagine my excitement when Joann Smalls, who I’d worked with before to perform at Crane Park Family Festival, announced that she was opening a perfectly-sized 300-400 seat venue – The Old Mogul Theatre, along with business partner Kazim Mirza. I immediately thought of ways we could perform in the new theatre and my mind went to a way to give Montclair Families (including my own) that First Night kind of experience. As with our 2014 CD Release party and some of the Family Fun Day events we had done before, we wanted to combine multiple kinds of arts and entertainment to give kids a variety.
Putting on this event meant renting the theatre, investing an amount of money that was unprecedented for us. We’d be taking a risk of a huge loss we couldn’t afford if not enough families showed for the event. So before committing to this, I decided to ask fellow parents in the Montclair community, in Facebook groups like Montclair Watercooler Connections, Share Montclair, and Montclair Mommies and Daddies, if this would be an event they would come to if we held it. The answer we got was a very enthusiastic “yes” and we went for it.
Last night, New Year’s Eve 2016, the Montclair community of families did not let us down! The theatre was filled to capacity with revelers of all ages looking to celebrate the New Year together in a meaningful way. And they got a variety of experiences: Izabelle the Amazing worked her hula hoop magic, building hula hoop sculptures with the kids first, and then putting on a dazzling show with a grand finale of light-up hoops.
Kids got a transformative moment with Anne from Painted Faces and Other Places; she painted intricate and wonderful designs on the children’s faces and arms. With Sally from Artsy & Craftsy, young ones were able to collaborate as a community, decorating a large ball that we would drop at the stroke of 6PM after the Jungle Gym Jam show. They also made masks and crowns. They were so engrossed in this activity that even when the house lights came down for the rock-n-roll show, kids continued decorating their projects in the low light!
In our performance we introduced for the first time as a band member “Charming Chip” Moore, who is also in the band Rainbow Fresh, a group with deep ties to Montclair. “Magnificent Miguel” Rodriguez filled in admirably for Ross, who was traveling during holiday vacation. “Cowgirl Casey” sang her always sweet harmonies and added great textures with her keyboard and acoustic guitar parts. And of course “Awesome Amy” took our show up a notch by animating our many puppets and accenting our sound on a variety of percussion instruments.
My dad, Bob Didner took these great pictures you see in this article; I’ve also seen some fine pics show up online from house photographer Armando Diaz and Stephanie Ferrante, a photographer and blogger. Kristin at Baristanet Family contributed some pictures as well, placing them on the web site’s slideshow gallery. My mom Linda was in full “kvelling” mode over the success of the event and Holly’s lovely interplay with her friends from our many circles.
Young Teddy Goldman worked the merchandise table alongside our go-to person on merch, MarieElena Guidry. We sold over 100 light-up LED foam wands, adding to the festive nature of the event. More than a dozen families entered a random drawing to win our CD, Skype concert and free enrollment in classes at Montclair’s L3 Academy.
We got great help in the press from our friends at Macaroni Kid Jersey City, NJ Family, Mommy Poppins NJ, Baristanet Family, The Montclair Times and NJArts.net.
Our friends in the community went above and beyond to help us make sure this event wouldn’t be Montclair’s best-kept secret. Nicole Gray volunteered her time to hang flyers around Upper Montclair and many friends kept up a steady stream of shares and comments on Facebook to get the word out. Montclair Playgroup meetup group also drummed up some excitement for this New Year’s Eve ball among its members.
Thank you all for making this Montclair dream come true; have a great 2016 and I look forward to doing it again next year! Were you there? Or were you inspired by this story? Share your experience in the comments below.