Over the decades, First Night (New Year's Eve) has been a fixture in the lives of thousands of residents, volunteers, downtown businesses and out of town visitors. Years ago, it was conceived following examples in other cities, Boston for one. But it has now "morphed" into an event with a special local flavor.
In the high flying '80's, budgets (in real dollars) for events like First Night were much more generous.
Hard times and competing charities have made "putting on a party" a harder sell for support - but - using local talent and local facilities (the Carousel, the Arch, etc..) management of the event and the First Night board have assembled quite a night. A tough economy also means more affordable talent.
With the great addition of the Winterfest activities, expect overflowing crowds in Bushnell Park again this year. The opening of festivities this last Friday in the park proved that interest in skating (open up the XL Center ice!) is high in Hartford, and now that the Pump House is heated - and has a fireplace - all kinds of possibilities pop up.
Glander Associates, running First Night, deserves a lot of credit for following the First Night's Board direction to come up with a variety of events that reflect Hartford's varied ethnic groups. This year, a wow! Even includes 3-D glasses for the 6 pm and 12 midnight fireworks.
The key to success in Hartford is homegrown talent and imagination, using our assets and stretching scarce resources to our advantage. The First Night celebration does all that and, hopefully, will grow in size and scope as the city continues to progress. There are many highlights in addition to the two firework shows, from Japanese drumming outside the Old State House to sea chanties at the Pump House.
Go to www.firstnighthartford.org for more information.
In disclosure, your reporter has been on the First Night Board for almost 20 years.