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At First Night, fireworks, performances to ring in the new year

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MORRISTOWN -- Preparations for tonight's 14th annual First Night Morris County were in full swing Friday, even as weather forecasts mentioned the chance of a light snowfall.

The pulsing sound of classic rock music filled the vacant Epstein's department store Friday afternoon.

Glenn M. Taylor, Bob Cianci, Chris Roselle, and Ben Asher --better known as the rock band the Kootz -- powered their way through tunes like the Who's "Tommy" inside the cold, empty halls of the now-closed store.

"It sounds good in here,"Roselle, the band's lead singer, said. "They should turn this into a nightclub."

For tonight at least, Roselle's idea will come to life. The store will be one of the venues for First Night Morris County, the largest New Year's celebration of its kind in New Jersey.

The Kootz and several bands will join still more entertainers hired to delight the 8,500 people who usually attend the event. Another 1,500 usually come to the Green area to watch the First Night fireworks at 9:15 and midnight.

For the Kootz, the decision to play the New Year's gig was easy. The band played the Morris County celebration for the first time last year at the Market Street Mission, and the performance brought them some welcome attention since then, Taylor said.

"People came up to us saying, 'We saw you at First Night,'" Taylor said.

"The environment in working in towns and municipalities is very cool," Taylor said. "You make some nice friends."