First Night organizers seek input and assistance • St Pete Catalyst

To the primary night time or to not the primary night time? that is the query.

Organizers of Saint Petersburg’s longest-running New Yr’s Eve celebration are in search of enter from the general public on how greatest to revive and proceed the occasion, which got here to a halt this yr after simply shy of three a long time on.

Between 15,000 and 20,000 folks journey downtown yearly for a first-night keep, which incorporates a big swath of the northeast space overlooking the bay, together with the websites of Strobe Park, Williams Park and the various storefronts, museums, and church buildings in between.

Hal Friedman and Leslie Curran are the longtime organizers of First Night time. Picture: Invoice de Younger.

“We’ve got 25 performers, artists, musicians, dancers, technicians, and distributors,” mentioned Hal Friedman, chair of the board of administrators for the nonprofit, which is a part of a nationwide First Night time franchise.

St. Pete’s occasion makes use of “Artwork in Sudden Locations” as its slogan.

“There’s at all times one thing to do,” Friedman continued. “Typically folks complain that they cannot see all the pieces they need to see. And that was the plan: give folks sufficient to do for 4 or 5 hours on New Yr’s Eve, throw some fireworks early so folks can take the youngsters dwelling, throw Extra fireworks at midnight.

The entire artists and performers are native, and so they receives a commission for his or her work. First Night time is hiring a paid Occasion Supervisor; Everybody else is a volunteer.

In keeping with Friedman, “The First Night time” price about $170,000 to supply. The Metropolis of St. Petersburg contributes $40,000, however takes again greater than half of the quantity earmarked for police provide and sanitation companies.

The one-of-a-kind light-up “buttons,” created by a neighborhood artist, are offered upfront for admission to the occasion. That brings in one other $40,000 or so.

The rest comes from sponsors and personal donors.

Attendance dropped final first night time, on December thirty first, 2021. The yr earlier than, on account of covid, the occasion was digital.

These two pictures to the top, mixed with a lower within the variety of volunteers (a lot of whom had been reluctant to work in giant crowds), a major improve in the price of fireworks and a dearth of sponsorship cash led to the cancellation of December thirty first. , 2022 first night time.

Town of St. Petersburg stepped in with its personal bash on December 31, produced by a neighborhood firm referred to as Huge Metropolis Occasions, at The Pier. A metropolis spokesperson mentioned that “New York on the Sidewalk” was scheduled after the August announcement that “Night time One” was cancelled.

“I wandered to the pier on New Yr’s Eve,” Friedman mentioned. “I handed a few our councilors, who mentioned the primary exercise now was standing on the road, ready for a drink. There was a DJ, a disco ball, a champagne bar, some buskers and plenty of folks.

“Within the Bayshore space, the parks had been empty.”

One other factor caught his consideration.

“The character was totally different. There have been lots of people of their 30s or 40s, not a variety of households. There have been some youngsters, however now youngsters will probably be up till midnight as a result of that was the one fireworks. No youngsters actions in any respect.” “.

Drummer first night time.

“The entire concept of ​​First Night time was a ‘celebration of the humanities,’” mentioned former metropolis councilwoman Leslie Curran, who co-founded St. Pete’s First Night time occasion in 1993. And since we’re an artsy city, it’s a disgrace you solely see the stereotypical champagne/fireworks. your New Yr’s Eve reasonably than incorporating the humanities. It additionally gave native artists a chance to showcase their work.”

Each Friedman and Curran surprise if St. Petersburg has grown an excessive amount of for First Night time.

“St. Pete seems like a small city, like a village,” Friedman mentioned. “And the primary night time was type of the end result of that.”

Curran added, “Simply since you really feel like we have turn out to be an enormous metropolis — and that is what we’re — does not imply you simply wipe out all these issues that gave us this fashion. There’s loads of room for each.”

The occasions of the primary night time are, contractually, alcohol-free. Nevertheless, the entire space’s eating places are open – and doing huge enterprise on New Yr’s Eve. Together with these on the sidewalk.

“Individuals are down there for the fireworks,” Friedman mentioned. “Give them one thing to do whereas they’re ready.”

A lot of first night time exhibits by Nate Carpenter and Daniela Soledad.

No matter kind a potential repair the primary night time would take, the organizers imagine the “youngsters’ night time” half—video games and actions for youngsters beneath 10, plus an early fireworks show—ought to stay the identical.

The whole lot else is, effectively, on the desk.

“We actually need to know: Do folks need this again?” “I believe it could be good if we might make them free, however have the buttons if folks simply needed to purchase them as souvenirs,” Curran mentioned, providing a suggestion.

She defined that there are dozens of individuals on the volunteer committee. “And it is not straightforward going out and fundraising. Particularly when you have got your personal enterprise to run, or no matter.”

Cash, maybe unsurprisingly, is an enormous a part of the difficulty at hand. Though First Night time had main sponsors up to now, together with Tom James and Invoice Edwards, they tended to pitch in for a yr or two, or three, after which step apart.

Freeman mentioned, “Both we want $200,000 from any individual, or we want $160,000 and the town to do the fireworks. Allow them to do one thing at The Pier as one of many occasions on the primary night time.”

“Possibly they may have a DJ there. As a result of the sidewalk is there—and it must be used. And that is cool.”

Share your ideas on the way forward for First Night time by emailing director Jamie McWade at

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