New York city may have Times Square and the ball drop, but Islanders looking to ring in the new year need look no further than Vineyard Haven to find their New Year's Eve fix.
The annual Last Night First Day celebration, sponsored by the Tisbury Ambulance Association, begins today, and with warmer weather forecast and new activities planned organizers are predicting this year's event will be one of the most successful.
"We're expecting more people than we've ever seen," Tisbury Business Association president Jeff Kristal said. "It's a great day and night packed with fun things to do for both kids and adults, and this year we have added even more."
"There are things to do for everyone, and I think a lot of families really enjoy this," echoed Melinda Loberg of the Tisbury Ambulance Association. "It's a very kid-friendly day."
Among the highlights tonight is the new Star of Life fireworks cruise aboard the New England Fast Ferry.
"The boat will be a phenomenal place to watch the fireworks," Mr. Kristal said. "I am really excited for it. They are always a great display."
The two-hour cruise through Vineyard Haven harbor leaves the Steamship Authority pier at 7:30 p.m.; the fireworks are scheduled to start at nine. Tickets are limited and cost $65 each (the price includes a button for admission to the night's other events).
Alcoholic beverages will be available through a cash bar, Mr. Kristal said. The cruise will also feature a Ben and Jerry's ice cream bar and music by the Sting Rays.
"We expect the cruise will sell out, but those interested can call the welcome center or the Tisbury ambulance barn Friday afternoon to see if there are any tickets still available," he said.
The Last Night festivities start this morning with skating from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Martha's Vineyard Ice Arena. Other family-oriented activities will continue throughout the day, including a sing-along screening of Mary Poppins at the Katharine Cornell Theatre at 1 p.m., free mini-golf at Island Cove from 4 to 7 p.m. and improvisational comedy by WIMP and their young offshoot, IMP, also at the Katharine Cornell Theatre, at 7 p.m.
The historic Fourway Carriage House on Franklin street is featuring its Trains and Tree display from 3 to 8 p.m.
"We've packed a lot into 24 hours," Ms. Loberg said.
As in previous years, a single button serves as a pass to all events. The cost is $12 for adults and $10 for students. Children are admitted free.
Mr. Kristal said he expects as many as 2,500 buttons will be sold. He added that, as with most events of this nature, where walking from one venue to the next is part of the experience, weather will play a critical role.
"Providing we have good weather, and it looks like we are going to get it, we think it will be very well attended," he said.
First Baptist Church on Spring street will serve as a welcome center, with Tisbury firemen serving hot dogs and soup and Island singers performing throughout the day.
In fact, music for all tastes and ages will be featured at several locations throughout the day.
Corinne DeLangavant and friends get it started at the welcome center beginning at 3 p.m., and Nancy Jephcote and the Flying Elbows go on stage at 7:30 p.m. Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish perform at the Katharine Cornell Theatre from 5:45 to 7 p.m., followed by an all-ages rock show with John Barleycorn and the Social Drinkers at nine.
At the Mansion House on Main street, the J.C. and Danny Wright Jazz Duo perform from 6 to 7 p.m. in the conference room. Island blues master Maynard Silva will play from 7:30 to 9.
For those seeking something not in the mainstream, the Vineyard Belly Dance and Review will perform from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Unitarian Church on Main street. Folk singer Mark Lovewell follows at 7, and will play again tomorrow at 10 a.m.
On New Year's Day, Main street will be awash in a sea of odd and unique hats for the annual Crazy Zany Hat and Bright Lights parade, which starts at 1 p.m. (Kids who want to create their own hats can meet at noon at the Tisbury ambulance barn, by the Stop and Shop parking lot.) CoCo the Clown will lead the procession, and the winner of the best hat contest will take home two round-trip Cape Air tickets to Boston for a weekend at the Marriott Customs House hotel.
"And as usual, people can use their buttons to get great discounts in businesses around town," Mr. Kristal said.
Buttons will be available today at Alley's General Store in West Tisbury, the Martha's Vineyard Chamber of Commerce and the Bunch of Grapes Bookstore in Vineyard Haven, Mocha Mott's in Oak Bluffs and the Mailroom in Edgartown. Anyone interested in the Star of Life cruise should call 508-696-4214 before 7 p.m. for more information.