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Boston First Night organization closing; mayor promises event will continue

The nonprofit group announced Thursday that it is laying off its small staff and closing its downtown offices by month’s end.

The New Year’s event started 37 years ago and featured artistic performances, ice sculptures, fireworks and other seasonal celebrations, and was emulated by other cities across the country.

“We just can’t support it anymore,” First Night director Geri Guardino told The Boston Globe (http://b.globe.com/182uZBk ).

The event’s financial struggles contrast with its popularity, which may have given the public a false sense that the event was stable.

“I think people took it for granted,” Guardino said. “Everyone thought it was going to happen regardless. But we were pulling it together on a wing and a prayer. In some ways, we were a victim of our own success.”

The event drew $474,000 from corporate sponsors 10 years ago. By last year, sponsorships dwindled to $156,000. Contributions from foundations, meanwhile, plunged from $364,000 to less than $50,000.

Overall, major funding has fallen 70 percent since 2003.

City officials said they would reach out to the business and philanthropic community to help finance the upcoming New Year’s Eve events. Officials hope another group will step forward to run things, or the city may take over the event.

“We’ll have First Night in Boston,” Menino said. “If we have to take it over, we will. There’s a will and there’s a way.”

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