Family First Night was just a buzz word until we as a family took part in this December 31st annual Town event for the second year in a row. Family First Night is not one of the highly attended events in Town but it is an enjoyable event to do something with your family or even by yourself on New Year’s Eve. You can go skating, swimming, watch a reptile show, magic show, Mad Science demonstrations, get your face painted, make crafts, have fun at The Loft (youth room), and much more.
Activities may differ year to year. The Family First Night event is now a fully indoor event at the Aurora Family Leisure Complex; however, this year (December 31st, 2017) to celebrate the finale of Canada 150 for exactly 12 minutes a special fireworks display lit up the sky from Lambert Willson Park before closing. Probably a one time deal for now.
Having said all that I was always intrigued by the name, “Family First Night.” Hearing the buzz word over the years and looking at the event headlines, I wasn’t sure what it was. Then we finally participated for the first time on December 31, 2016 and 2017, so my next question was why is it called Family First Night? I couldn’t make the connection between the event and the name.
A few hours later, searching, reading and connecting the dots I got some answers. The Auroran, our local newspaper, turned out to be a great resource for finding out more about the Family First Night origins and origins of many other things. Yep, I was reading about everything else I never noticed while living in Aurora since 1997.
According to The Auroran paper (Week of December 7, 2004) the event originated from Aurora’s first New Year’s Day Levee at the Leisure Complex back in 1984 to welcome Ontario’s Bicentennial Year. Apparently, on short notice, more than one hundred fifty residents showed up to meet and exchange New Year’s greetings with the Town Mayor and Council. [quote align=’right’]”Yep, I was reading about everything else I never noticed while living in Aurora since 1997.”[/quote]The New Year’s Day Levee then became an annual event until it was replaced by “First Night” as a family event to welcome the New Year every year on New Year’s Eve (December 31). It was in 1994 when Town of Aurora joined with other municipalities across North America to welcome the New Year with a First Night Party at the Leisure Complex to provide residents with family entertainment at a low cost. Here is something interesting to note according to The Auroran article, “In order that more young children could participate, it was decreed that New Year’s came to Aurora the same time as it did in Newfoundland, making it a little earlier.“
Back then not all First Night event activities were inside. There were some outdoor weather permitting activities like bonfire and sleigh rides eventually replaced by wagon rides. Throughout the years, sometimes weather co-operated and sometimes it did not. Not clear which year the fireworks started or ended, but there were fireworks on display at least once before at Lambert Willson Park.
Sometime between 2012 and 2016 the Family First Night became an all indoor event. “Nikki” the then 22-year old cockatoo (Sulfer Crested Cockatoo Parrot), possibly made her first appearance in 2008 at the Leisure Complex. Wow, Nikki must be 31 years old now (2017).
Nikki, is not the only attraction on display. The Zoo Tek representatives since 2008 have been showcasing all kinds of captive creatures like snakes, scorpions, spiders, porcupines and rabbits, of which I had an opportunity to snap a few pictures from behind the glass.
Like every other Town event, Aurora’s Family First Night event evolved over the years since its inception. I am sure that what I researched here was only chronologically icing on the cake; and those who attended the event from the earlier days perhaps have many more fond and cherished memories.
Note, despite an extremely cold weather, many families come out their cars and houses to watch the fireworks.
Anna Lozyk Romeo