Ocean City marks the 21st anniversary of its popular nonalcoholic New Year's Eve celebration tonight (Monday, Dec. 31), and the city is eager to welcome visitors.
All-inclusive admission buttons are good for about 60 family entertainment programs at 18 different venues in Ocean City, and the evening ends with a midnight fireworks display visible from the beach and Boardwalk. On Monday, buttons are available only at Stainton's: A Gallery of Shops between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m.
The holiday celebration continues with First Day events on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013. Highlights include a 5-kilometer run and a polar plunge.
The two-day First Night/First Day celebration has become a highlight of Ocean City's event calendar. Here's what you need to know:
How to purchase admission buttons:
- Buttons ($15) are good for all events.
- As of Monday, buttons are no longer available online at firstnightocnj.com.
- First Night buttons can be purchased only in person at the Wonderland kiosk at Stainton's Gallery of Shops on the 800 block of Asbury Avenue 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 31.
- First Night has an Angel Fund for those who can’t afford buttons. Call 609-525-9300.
When: The First Night event schedule runs 4 p.m. through the midnight fireworks on Monday, Dec. 31.
Weather: Monday night's forecast is cloudy, with a low around 35 and west wind 9 to 11 mph. Tuesday: a chance of showers, mainly after 1pm ... mostly cloudy, with a high near 45 ... west wind 9 to 16 mph ... chance of precipitation is 30%.
To see a complete list of First Night events: Visit the First Night calendar or click on the PDF icon with this story to print a copy of the event schedule.
Event Highlights: Opening ceremonies will be held 4 p.m. at the Ocean City Music Pier. First Night admission buttons are good for children's rides at Gillian's Wonderland Pier from 5 to 9 p.m. and Gillian’s Adventure Golf from 2 to 9 p.m.
Tommy Cash, younger brother of the late Johnny Cash, wlll perform three one-hour shows on the Ocean City Music Pier starting at 9 p.m. Cash sounds like his brother and is known, in part, for his original song "Six White Horses" (listen to song).
Entertainment ranges from popular children’s shows featuring magicians, jugglers and puppeteers to Broadway shows, a big band dance, the award-winning band Trout Fishing In America, the Grease Band, Michael Hartman musical and dance productions, Japanese drummers and more. And all visitors to Ocean City on First Night will have the opportunity to see the real stars at Ocean City High School's new observatory. The Science Club, directed by Dr. John Herrmann, will offer First Night button-holders an opportunity to observe and take photographs of Jupiter, its moons and other celestial wonders.
Taste of the Jersey Shore: The Ocean City Restaurant Association will again offer its popular Taste of the Jersey Shore event at the Ocean City High School cafeteria. You can check the complete menu on the First Night website and book your reservations online at www.eatinocnj.com. Price is $20 for adults, $8 for children with hourly seating 4 to 8 p.m.
Additional food will be available: at the Sports and Civic Center, Sixth Street off Boardwalk, featuring Dell’s Grille, light boardwalk fare; at the Ocean City Senior Center, 17th and Simpson Ave, with Yianni’s specialties; at the Ocean City Primary School, 5th Street and West Avenue with light boardwalk fare; and St. Peter’s United Methodist Church, 8th Street and Central Ave., with light boardwalk fare.
Parking and transportation: All municipal parking lots and metered parking is free. Jitneys will provide free transportation from 5 p.m. until midnight for button-holders, operating continuously between sites starting at the Transportation Center (Ninth Street and Haven Avenue) and Seventh Street Parking Lot (Seventh Street and Central Ave.). For a route map and complete information, visit the First Night website.
Sponsors: Primary sponsors, include Ocean City Home Bank, Gillian's Wonderland Pier, Ocean City Tabernacle, the Ocean City Free Free Public Library and the City of Ocean City. Proceeds from the event benefit charities, such as: scholarships for Ocean City High school students, the After Prom Committee, the Ronald J. Moretti Foundation, the Hero Foundation and Waves of Caring.
History of First Night: First Night in Ocean City started 21 years ago and was modeled after an alcohol-free New Year's Eve celebration in Boston that marked the nation's bicentennial in 1976. The first celebration included 25 entertainment acts in five different locations with admission buttons selling for $8 ($5 before Dec. 26). About 800 buttons were sold.
First Day 5K Boardwalk Run: A 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) run/walk begins 1 p.m. at the Ocean City Music Pier, Boardwalk and Moorlyn Terrace. Registration starts at 11:30 a.m. Entry fee is $20 with T-shirts available while they last. Without a shirt, fee is $10. Pre-registration fee is $18 if received before Dec. 28, 2012. Awards will be presented for the 5K Race including age-groups 14 and under, 15-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69, 70 and over. The walk is non-competitive. Contact Race Director, Mike Givens (609) 861-0674 or email email@example.com.
T-Shirt Sale: First Night long-sleeved shirts will be on sale for $20 in front of the Music Pier. The shirts will feature a replica of every First Night admission button since the event started 21 years ago. Proceeds benefit First Night programs.
First Dip Polar Plunge: Ocean City's annual ocean plunge starts at 2 p.m. and typically draws more than 500 bathers for a spirited and brief encounter with the ocean. All participants should report to the registration area in front of the Music Pier, Boardwalk and Moorlyn Terrace, where they will sign a waiver and receive a "Beach Nut Certificate" proclaiming that they have bravely negotiated the waters on New Year's Day in Ocean City.
OCNJ CARE: All visitors will also be able to make an optional donation to support OCNJ CARE, the volunteer organization that is assisting those still recovering from the recent storm.
FIRST DAY IN THE DOWNTOWN: Shoppers are invited to kick off the New Year with First Day In the Downtown along the Asbury Avenue business district. Most stores will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., some earlier at 10 a.m. Asbury Avenue has more than 100 specialty stores, galleries and restaurants between Sixth and 11th streets.
QUESTIONS: Call (609) 399-1412 or (609) 525-9300.
HOW TO HELP
While the city says it is more than prepared to entertain First Night and First Day visitors, officials remind visitors that many residents are still in need, especially in obtaining housing.
OCNJ CARE and Ocean City Emergency Management continue to work to ensure that those who lost housing obtain accommodations. You can support this effort by sending a check to OCNJ CARE, P.O. Box 807, Ocean City, NJ 08226 or dropping a contribution off at Ocean City Home Bank, 10th and Asbury Ave.