Vt. Communities Find Ways to Celebrate New Year's Eve Amid New COVID Surge

Burlington and St. Johnsbury were among those making adjustments to their holiday plans this year

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The omicron variant and new spikes in COVID-19 infections have some Vermont communities changing their planned New Year's Eve celebrations, with safety in mind.

"We obviously had to do a pretty big adjustment," said Zach Williamson of Burlington City Arts.

BCA and contractors were busy Wednesday setting up a pair of outdoor performance venues.

Living through a pandemic for going on two years has prompted many of us to rethink our priorities and how we want to spend our time. NBCLX contributor Michelle Park explored how people are incorporating their new mindsets into their New Year's resolutions. For some folks, 2022 is all about being their most authentic selves; for others, it's about setting up their future or testing themselves physically.

More than a dozen shows for the city department's New Year's Eve celebration, called "Highlight," that had been scheduled indoors are now moving to fresh air to cut the risk of COVID-19 spreading between patrons.

"I think it's better for the performers, I think it's better for the people coming out, it's better for my staff," Williamson said. "Everyone can feel a lot safer about being outside and having a good time."

For more information on BCA's programming and how to attend Highlight, visit this website.

In St. Johnsbury, all in-person performances for First Night North were recently changed to instead be only online this year -- though they will now be free.

First Night Boston is gearing up for its free, nearly entirely outdoor New Year's Eve celebration this Friday.

Ashley Van Zandt of Catamount Arts said she is confident the decision, while disappointing, was the right call. She said the nonprofit organization and its sponsors wanted to do what they could to lessen the burden on health care facilities from another expected COVID wave.

"Our top priority is keeping the community safe, and if that means canceling something that might promote gathering in large crowds, then it's what we have to do," Van Zandt said, adding that the decision was made in consultation with local health agencies.

Click here for more information on how to enjoy live First Night North performances online.

Expecting more sharp spikes in infections, the Vermont Health Department and the administration of Gov. Phil Scott have been recommending only small New Year's gatherings, with masking when possible indoors.

"You should know the vaccination status of the people with whom you're gathering," Secretary Mike Smith of the Vermont Agency of Human Services said Tuesday at an administration news conference -- his last before retiring. "That includes knowing whether they are up-to-date and received their booster shot."

The organization Montpelier Alive is offering one way to stay physically distanced this New Year's Eve.

Sponsor Tim Heney of Heney Realtors is bringing back fireworks, at 6 p.m. this Friday, after five years with no show in the skies over the capital city on New Year's.

"We are setting them off from one of the highest points in town," explained Dan Groberg of Montpelier Alive. "So we're hoping people will be able to see them from basically anywhere, but certainly anywhere downtown, so there will be plenty of room for people to spread out and be safe."

Groberg went on to say many city residents will likely be able to view the 15- to 20-minute-long fireworks display from their porches or yards if they want to further stay away from others. The show will also be visible from the lawn of the Vermont State House, Groberg noted.

More information on Montpelier Alive offerings is available through this site.

Officials in Vermont said Tuesday that COVID cases could climb high enough to prompt school closures, if too many staff are out to keep schools running.

Back in Burlington, where Highlight also has online options, organizers said they think their last-minute shift outdoors may actually attract extra patrons who had been leery about attending performances inside.

"This community, as we saw, can come together and have a good time," Williamson said.

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