It was still Dec. 31 when the fireworks went off and “Happy New Year” wishes were given, but that didn’t seem to bother the 3,500 to 4,000 who were at Stuart Park for Kelowna’s first ever New York New Years.
The Festivals Kelowna event was based on the eastern time zone to ensure families could celebrate flipping the calendar while still getting their kids in bed at a reasonable time.
“We were finding just before the event—and the attendance the night of the event really showed—that there was appetite and a bit of a need for family-focused New Year’s Eve activities,” said Renata Mills, executive director of Festivals Kelowna.
“The place was just blooming with little children, grandmas and grandpas and all ages in between.”
Mills said she ran with the idea of New York New Years after a friend told her his family always does an eastern New Years celebration at 9 p.m.
“I thought that was brilliant,” said Mills.
“People could make it until 9 p.m. with their little ones outside…then families could go home, put their little ones to bed and then continue on with their evening.”
According to Mills, the concept was well received by the attendees who counted down at the same time as those in Times Square.
Monday night’s event featured live music, ice skating and various activities for children. A snow zone was created thanks to multiple truckloads of clean snow brought in by Global Roadway Maintenance.
Lighting effects were also placed around the outdoor skating rink to visually enhance the area.
A short fireworks display was the finale to ring in the early New Year.
Mills said expectations hadn’t been set for the inaugural New Year’s event, but noted she was happy with the numbers that came out.
“It was very much a test event for us…we just wanted to get a feel for how it would go and we were really pleased.
“We tried to stick with a really simple formula. I think that’s going to be our goal moving forward: Take that core, simple, successful model and build on it.”
The next step will be sitting down with community partners and planning for future years.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean a bigger event on the last night of 2013.
“We’ve got to figure out, at what point is it good to stay at the size we’re at? When you get bigger, you also get all the complexities of an event that’s bigger. That’s the conversation we’re going to have: What is our end goal?”
She said the families will continue to be the focus and Festivals Kelowna may look to coordinate with other existing events to make the celebration as efficient as possible in coming years.