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Haddonfield, Mount Holly to celebrate 2013’s First Night

Two First Nights. Dozens of performers and shows. Thirty-six degrees.

That's the numerical rundown for tonight's two family-friendly New Year's Eve celebrations, in Haddonfield and Mount Holly.

This morning, event coordinators were cruising around Haddonfield posting signs and making final arrangements for the celebration.

The event, now in its 15th year, is even more grand this year as the borough starts observing its 300th anniversary. Thousands are expected to attend.

Fireworks at 9 p.m. with a countdown for kids will be followed by the cutting of an elaborately decorated three-layer cake reflecting Haddonfield's history, including its Native American heritage of the Indian King, and archaeological discovery of the famous Hadrosaurus.

The cake, compliments of the a local business sponsor, Sweet T's, a specialty cake designer, will be unveiled at 4 p.m. at the stage in the center of town and sliced after the firework finale.

Fireworks are free and parking available without charge at the Patco station or any metered spot in town. For those who want to attend the indoor events, $15 buttons can be purchased at 2 King's Court in the center of town.

The night starts at 6 p.m. with rock bands performing at King's Court, an assortment of food provided by local businesses, a magic show and more than a dozen other activities, including historical historians with performances focusing on Abraham Lincoln and the Underground Railroad.

The alcohol-free event caters to children through 9 p.m. and offers a shuttle to various events, which include a Michael Jackson experience. Event organizer Cheryl Squadrito expects that show to fill to capacity. She suggests arriving a half-hour early to secure admission to "must-see" events.

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Mount Holly will slither into the Year of the Snake at its annual celebration.

As the only First Night aligned with the lunar - or Chinese - calendar, the theme of the evening is reptilian, starting with the traditional ice sculpture.

"It's a snake ice chair," said cochairman Regan Young. "People love to come and sit in it and have their pictures taken."

Since the celebration is the only remaining First Night in Burlington County, the name was changed a few years ago to First Night Burlington.

But all the action is still on High Street.

Admission buttons are $13 for two and can be purchased at the Prison Museum, the Mugshot Diner, or Red, White and Brew, all on High Street and at YMCA locations in Moorestown and Burlington City.

Two thousand revelers are expected with proceeds of $10,000 donated to Main Street Mount Holly.

As usual, all types of entertainment will be featured. Not to be missed are This Way to the Egress, which bills itself as an old-timey gypsy-punk cabaret band - like you haven't seen a hundred of those before.

Taylor Galassi, the cello-playing founder of the band, described their music as "klezmer, blues, gypsy progressions with some theatrical antics for live shows."

The Bethlehem-based band is recording its second album and was recently booked to play on a cruise to Jamaica and a train trip across the country.

"We have so many different qualities about our music," said Galassi, who comes from a musical family - his mother and sisters are all music teachers.

He started the band four years ago by searching for musicians who could play what he wrote. The group just moved into a "band house" to increase its productivity, he said.

Regan said he was looking forward to hearing the band, though not quite sure what to expect.

"We'll find out, won't we?," he said cheerfully.

Venues throughout town will be used, including the Warden's House, the Prison Museum, St. Andrew's Church, the Friends Meeting, the Burlington County College Mount Holly Center, all on High Street, the Masons Lodge Hall and the Friends Meeting on Garden Street, and an outdoor stage at Mill and High Streets.

Among the other performers are Lili Anel, a jazz and soul singer-songwriter, opera singer Katie Kat, and historical storyteller David Emerson. Two comedians, Josh Spears and "Soul" Joel Richardson offer jokes the whole family can enjoy.

Then there's Sasha the Fire Gypsy, an accomplished fire performer who combines performance, choreography, theatrics, drama, movement, and dance to bring fire performance to the highest level.

Lilith Lore is a living statue, storyteller, burlesque dancer and much, much more. Her resume lists her skills as standing very still, belly dancing, rapier/broadsword/quarter staff, various dialects and accents, and reading tarot. And don't forget the drama tribal belly dance performers and zumba instruction in the street.

"People love that," Regan said.

For something truly different, St. Andrew's Sanctuary presents Camagine Design presents "The Story of Genesis," a light and image display, synced to music, using advanced animation techniques to highlight the architectural features of this Gothic Revival church. Scheduled for 5:45, 6:30, 7:15, 8:15 and 9.

The evening starts at 5:30 p.m. and concludes with fireworks at 9:15 p.m., just in time to get to a party, pour a glass of bubbly and ring in the new year.

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