ESSEX/MORRIS COUNTY, NJ - For the first time in three years, northern NJ residents had a choice of two First Night celebrations to attend, as the venerated First Night Morris, which is based in Morristown and which seemed to be bigger than ever, was joined by First Night Maplewood/South Orange, an event held entirely at Columbia High School and which was revived after two years of dormancy.

First Night events are alcohol-free/family friendly ways to ring in the New Year. At one time in the 1990's, nearly 25 percent of the municipalities in the state hosted such happenings. This year, however, there were fewer than 10 statewide and only two held anywhere north of Princeton.

First Night Maplewood/South Orange drew close to 1,000 revelers, who were able to enjoy performances by, among many others, the Lisa Lou Circus Act, Cirquetacular and the Prismatic Laser Show, along with food from Ariyoshi, Walia, Tito's Burritos, The Dancing Blender, and Mara's Cafe.

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Among the attendees at First Night Maplewood/South Orange was Charles Ezell, a former James Caldwell High School vice-principal who now lives in Maplewood who said, “This is a wonderful event for families and we're thrilled that it's back.”

Echoing that sentiment was Livingston dweller Kathy Greenstone

“This is wonderful, just wonderful,” said the 1988 Livingston High School graduate who was working as a volunteer at the event.

First Night Morris boasted over two hundred performers who drew thousands of attendees to more than eighty shows at two dozen venues across the town, ranging from several sites at Morristown High School to the Mayo Performing Arts Center and Hyatt Hotel.

First Night Morris also included not just one, but two fireworks shows, which hundreds and hundreds of people from as far away as Delaware and Boston viewed from the Morristown Green first at 9:15 p.m. and then at, of course, midnight.

Among the scores of locals who enjoyed the festivities at First Night Morris were two sisters from West Orange, Tabitha Rodriguez, a member of the West Orange High School Class of 2011, and Trinity Walski, a six-year-old Kindergarten student.

“This has been a great night and it's a wonderful thing for family members to enjoy together,” said Rodriguez, a recent Rutgers University graduate.