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Democrat Photo by Sarah Salvati

THE LIBERTY BELL descended past a neon 2003 sign as the New Year was rung in in front of the Liberty Museum and Arts Center on Main Street in Liberty. Hundreds attended to celebrate First Night.

A New Way To
Greet the New Year

By Matt Youngfrau
MONTICELLO — For more than two decades, First Night celebrations have taken place all around the country and throughout the world. First Night is a drug- and alcohol-free New Year’s Eve celebration that is family-oriented.
The first such celebration in Sullivan County took place this past New Year’s Eve in the villages of Monticello and Liberty.
“This has been absolutely wonderful,” commented First Night Co-Chair Veronica Uss. “This is a tribute to the greatness of this community and the people who live in it.”
“We are off to a great start,” First Night Co-Chair Roberta Byron-Lockwood remarked. “The enthusiasm for this event is there. It has been marvelous.”
“This is a wonderful event,” stated New York State Assemblyman Jake Gunther. “There has been good participation from the local community. It is a good-spirited way to bring in the new year. It will grow in time. Overall, it is a very fun event.”
The event kicked off at 7 p.m. with a parade. As the parade marched down Broadway, fireworks officially kicked off the inaugural First Night celebration. Events took place throughout the village until it was time to ring in the New Year.
“This has been a great start,” Village of Monticello Mayor Gary Sommers said. “The committee did a terrific job getting organized on short notice.”
“This has been a wonderful celebration,” commented Sullivan County Legislature Chair Leni Binder. “It is great to see so many people together. The goal was to have the community come together. They seem to be having a great time. Weren’t the fireworks great?”
While it was a First Night celebration, there was another reason to celebrate: 2003 marks the 200th anniversary of the Town of Thompson. Proclamations honoring the anniversary were given to Thompson Supervisor Tony Cellini by Gunther and Binder. Also, proclamations were sent by United States President George W. Bush, United States Vice President Dick Cheney, United States Congressman Maurice Hinchey, New York State Senator John Bonacic, and others. After Cellini read the town’s proclamation, the officials cut a birthday cake to celebrate the occasion.
“This is an appropriate place to celebrate our 200th birthday,” Cellini commented. “This is a great start for this annual event. All should be commended for the work they did.”
Many venues throughout the village had entertainment throughout the evening and night. Performances took place at several churches, Elegante, the Neighborhood Facility, the Feast, and other locations on Broadway. Featured acts included belly dancing, the Bronx Opera Company, Fakoli Drum/Dance, the Hugh Brodie Trio, Dr. Balloonakiss and the Rock and Roll Therapist.
Buses shuttled people between events in both villages.
After witnessing the entertainment, those in attendance at Monticello made their way to the Neighborhood Facility parking lot to witness the bonfire. The bonfire was symbolic to help burn the past and bring in a fresh start. At midnight, a spectacular fireworks show capped off the event.

Democrat Photo by Matt Youngfrau

THIS BONFIRE ROUNDED out a night of New Year’s Eve festivities in Monticello – along with similar activities in Liberty – during Sullivan County’s inaugural First Night celebration.

Liberty Joins
In the Fun

By Sarah Salvati
LIBERTY — January 3, 2003 – With a fantastic display of music and lights, the Village of Liberty ushered in the New Year with pride and community spirit.
Hats were tossed, and confetti flew through the air as the crowd celebrated the arrival of 2003 with the dropping of the Liberty Bell at midnight from the top of the Liberty Museum and Arts Center on Main Street. The Bell Drop, which was the finale to festivities that began at 10 p.m. featuring local performers at various village locations, was part of the annual First Night celebration.
Community members joined with members of the Liberty Middle School band to play “Auld Lang Syne” the moment the bell completed its descent. The musicians were led by Liberty Schools’ Director of Music Gary Siegel, who said, “This is about our fifth year playing, everyone volunteers to be here, and it really is a great community event.”
The 2002/2003 sign was donated by Sullivan County Neon in Monticello. Non-alcoholic champagne was provided for the toast compliments of the Seanachie Pub on Main Street in Liberty.
The event drew about 200 people.

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