First Night Boston returns with music, fireworks — and vaccines

A crowd watching a performance during a previous First Night Boston. (Courtesy First Night Boston, Inc.)
A crowd watching a performance during a previous First Night Boston. (Courtesy First Night Boston, Inc.)

New Year's Eve revelers in Boston Friday night could see fireworks, hear live music and roll up their sleeves for COVID-19 vaccines and boosters.

The annual First Night festival — back after being canceled by the pandemic last year — included a mobile clinic where party goers could get the jab. A vaccine van from the Whittier Street Health Center parked in Copley Square, among food trucks slinging corn dogs and fried dough.

Frederica Williams, the health center's chief executive, thinks it was a smart strategy to offer vaccines in a place where people may have been indulging before resolving to live healthier in 2022.

"We wanted to be here, as people are ushering in the new year and making new year's resolutions," she said. "And we wanted this to be part of the new year's resolutions people are making."

A final vaccine tally for the night wasn't immediately available, but the van attracted a long line.

Nearby, light-up hats and glitzy glasses festooned a tent where Henry Gardner was hawking New Year's Eve swag. He said crowds have been large at similar festivals he has worked throughout the holiday season.

"But [the state] had such a high number come in yesterday on the COVID count," he said, referring to the 21,137 positive cases reported Dec. 30, a single-day record in Massachusetts.

Gardner predicted some people might stay home — even if they were excited about First Night's return and hope 2022 is the year the pandemic is fully under control.

Ken and Elana Jones were undeterred. But they didn't plan to stay until midnight.

"We're not the partyers that we used to be," Ken Jones said, adding a quip about hitting their 30s.

The Dorchester couple brought their 2-year-old son, sporting a "2022" crown he made from construction paper in preschool, to see ice sculptures.

"I always went to First Night as a kid," Elana Jones said. "So, when I found out they were having celebrations this year, I wanted to take him out."

The youngest Jones may not remember Friday's outing, but his parents said it was special for them after a couple of challenging years.


Headshot of Callum Borchers

Callum Borchers Reporter
Callum covered the Greater Boston business community for Bostonomix.



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