By Juli McDonald

BOSTON (CBS) – It was a festive and fabulous return to First Night in Boston. After last year’s virtual celebration, Friday night’s party in Copley Square looked and felt just like we’re used to.

“We’ve waited two years to be able to do this,” a grandfather said. “Awesome. Bring the kids out here. Couldn’t be better.”

There was music, dancing, and dazzling ice sculptures. There were smiles hidden by face coverings, and there was incredible demand for vaccine protection.

Ice sculpture at First Night Boston (WBZ-TV)

Whittier Street Health Center offered not only convenience, but access to education.

“It’s been busy, it’s been wonderful,” said Frederica Williams of Whittier Street Health Center.

“You need to get your information about the science. The vaccines are effective, they’re saving lives, they’re preventing illnesses. We have a physician in the house and nurses that they can ask questions.”

The plan was to distribute 1,000 rapid test kits. They had to go back to the clinic for more, and the line had formed even before the bus arrived. No one was turned away if they wanted a vaccine or booster.

“I actually have my Pfizer booster set for 2 a.m. January 2 at CVS, which I’ll be canceling as a result of this wonderful and cooperative situation that you have,” a Boston man waiting in line said.

More than 500 people stepped up to the Whittier Street Health Center clinic Friday for a shot – for many of them it was their very first vaccine.

“There’s been a lot of joy. A lot of folks who are normally afraid of needles are happy to get the needles,” said Stephen Wright of Whittier Street. “They know how important it is, these vaccinations.”

Mayor Michelle Wu said boosting the city’s vaccination rate is key to easing the pressure on our local hospitals.

“We are going to make sure Boston leads the way,” Wu said. “So, we are continuing to be happy and healthy as a community headed into 2022.”

Juli McDonald