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First Night Celebrates As Rebuilding Continues

Families hopped from arcade to arcade as part of Ocean County First Night, and looked skyward after 5 p.m. to see dusk light up with fireworks.

The celebration capped 2013 on the boardwalk in Seaside Heights, packing Lucky Leo's to Shake Shoppe Arcade with families enjoying entertainment and gifts to those who purchased a First Night wristband.

Balloon twisters, magicians, jugglers, caricature artists and musicians set up inside four arcades to perform, while quarters flew into arcade amusements. Shake Shoppe gave out ice cream, while Casino Pier arcade and Coin Castle gave out toys and $5 gift cards.

The family-friendly, alcohol-free New Year's Eve celebration drove business during the chilly offseason in Seaside, as celebrants mixed fun and hope for the new year that is still only partially rebuilt after Hurricane Sandy and this fall's devastating boardwalk fire.

Lines to cash in on wristband rewards snaked throughout the arcades, Ocean Terrace parking lots charged for the day, and Maruca's Pizza was served up at JR's, making for a busy day there. But the majority of stands and businesses remained shuttered for the offseason.

Funtown Pier's Carousel building, normally a destination on the First Night agenda, was among the businesses reduced to rubble after September's fire. Early in the day, onlookers surveyed the rebuilding process, noting the "trench" made to stop the fire's spreading now had new boards lain.

But the day was ruled by family fun and celebration, as children huddled with their parents for a good view of the last boardwalk fireworks of 2013.

Check out our gallery from Ocean County First Night.

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