Businesses and longtime community members in Vermont’s largest city called it inconceivable: the possibility Burlington would no longer host a major New Year’s Eve celebration.
That risk was real after the long-running First Night Burlington was abruptly forced to close this year, because of financial struggles.
“I think we all went through a process of being pretty concerned over that coming to an end, but I’m very excited about what’s emerged,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger, D-Burlington.
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What emerged is called Highlight, resulting from a partnership between Burlington City Arts and the events promoters at Signal Kitchen—with the support of many sponsors.
Highlight is launching this year after the 35-year run of First Night Burlington suddenly ended under crippling financial struggles blamed on last year’s dangerous subzero cold and declining attendance.
Singer-songwriter Anais Mitchell, a Vermont native, was announced as being among the Highlight performers.
To make the launch happen, organizers essentially did a year’s worth of preparations in a third of the time.
“To do it in four months—really, less than that—is remarkable,” observed Muffie Milens, who worked for the now-shuttered First Night Burlington.
Milens predicted First Night’s replacement will be a hit because of how it was programmed: BCA and Signal Kitchen turned to the public for proposals.
Most of the activities, which include a parade, fireworks, bonfire, and the fire dancers of Cirque de Fuego, emerged from that grassroots community process.
“I think it’s going to make a huge difference, because people will feel they have something at stake, or a stake in it,” Milens said.
Burlington’s not the only Vermont city debuting a new New Year’s Eve celebration. Buttons are now for sale in St. Albans for an inaugural event there, called Last Night.
In another sign the holidays are upon us, crane crews hoisted a 40-foot Christmas tree into place Thursday on downtown Burlington’s famous Church Street Marketplace.
The blue spruce will be illuminated in a tree-lighting party on Black Friday, Nov. 23. Entertainment starts at 5:30 p.m., with the tree lighting following at 6 p.m.