First Night’s 12 hours of shows under way, fireworks at 6:15 p.m.

  • Dave Newland, left, of Northampton Open Media records a few takes of Northampton Arts Council event producer Steve Sanderson hosting a virtual “raising of the ball” atop the Hotel Northampton on Dec. 2, 2020, to be broadcast last New Year’s Eve. STAFF FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer 
Published: 12/23/2021 4:38:20 PM

NORTHAMPTON — First Night Northampton, the traditional New Year’s Eve celebration, kicks off at noon on Friday with a full slate of programs being livestreamed to social media and public access TV — Comcast cable channels 12, 15 and 23.

The 6:15 p.m. fireworks, shot off from the downtown parking garage, and the midnight ball-raising in front of the Hotel Northampton will still take place in person and outdoors.

Due to a record-breaking number of COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts, city Public Health Director Merridith O’Leary last week ordered the cancellation of all in-person indoor events at First Night.

The livestreamed performances will take place at 33 Hawley, The Parlor Room and Edwards Church. A full schedule is available at FirstNightNorthampton.org.

The 12-hour family arts festival has been held every year since 1985. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the event to go fully virtual last year, with performances and even the ball-raising filmed in advance.

Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz said last week that the decision to cancel in-person performances was made in response to “the exponential increase” of coronavirus infections due to the omicron variant.

Refunds are available for First Night pins; customers should return them to the location of purchase. Pin sales that are not refunded will be considered donations to First Night Northampton, which expects to take a fundraising hit because of the cancellations.

Steve Sanderson, an event producer with the Northampton Arts Council, said the decision “hurts” and the return of the pins “is going to sting” because the artists, technicians, venue staff and others still need to be paid.

The Board of Health released a public statement last week, saying members are “increasingly concerned” by the case spike. They urged the public to get vaccinated, keep holiday gatherings small, consider getting tested for COVID before attending a party and wear a high-quality mask, such as an N-95 or KN-95, when indoors or outdoors and social distancing is not possible.

 

 

“Don’t go if you are sick, and don’t allow people with symptoms to join your party. Early symptoms may be mild, such as a new stuffy nose or scratchy throat, especially for those who are vaccinated,” the statement reads. “We all wish this pandemic would disappear as quickly as it arrived, but unfortunately it is here to stay for a while more.”


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