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New Year’s Eve celebrations adjusted due to safety concerns in the wake of the Omicron variant

Fireworks (file)
Pat Bradley/WAMC
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Fireworks (file)

The new coronavirus variant is causing organizers of New Year’s Eve celebrations to modify their events. In Vermont, Burlington is adjusting its venues and the state’s capital city is bringing back a popular outdoor event.

Burlington City Arts and Signal Kitchen sponsor a community-wide, day long family festival called Highlight New Year’s Eve that features a range of artists, music, dance, comedy, storytelling and performance art capped by fireworks.

The event is normally held at multiple indoor and outdoor venues across the city.

Organizers on Monday announced that all events will be moved outdoors. Those that cannot be held outdoors will be virtual. Burlington City Arts Festival and Event Director Zach Williamson says they are following the advice of local and state public health experts.

“It was just a decision based on keeping our community as safe as possible while allowing for a great celebration of this new year," Williamson said. "So we wanted to make sure we could still do that and do it safely. The main reason is just that as opposed to some other venues that might be doing New Year’s Eve events our event has thousands of people coming in and out socializing. We were going to have food and drink inside in different venues and we just didn’t think that that was going to be something that we should do given the rise with the Omicron variant. So we did work pretty fast and pretty hard to move everything that we could outside. So we have two stages set up outside and we also have a bunch of virtual programming on our website as well.”

Williamson said they always had plans to limit capacity, require masks and check for vaccination status. But as the Omicron variant emerged they felt it would be harder to gather safely inside and it would be best to move events outside to their stages at Waterfront Park and on Pine Street.

“We still are relying on the overwhelming idea that outside is just generally safer and there’s just more space," Williamson said. "We can be out in Waterfront Park or in our big parking lot behind 405 Pine Street at the BCA Studios and people can spread out a little bit more and feel just better about their surroundings and honestly be safer.”

In Vermont’s capital city, Montpelier Alive is coordinating fireworks for 6 p.m. Executive Director Dan Groberg says the community is excited that a sponsor stepped forward and the event is returning after a five-year hiatus.

“We had a local donor, Tim Heney from Heney Realtors a local realty firm, approach us just about two weeks ago and say that he wanted to do something for the community at the end of this difficult year and could we organize New Year’s Eve fireworks if he helped to support it financially and we said why not, let’s try it," said Groberg.

Groberg says they are planning outdoor events and there are numerous separately organized activities that will follow COVID protocols.

“We’ve made a point to have outdoor events," Groberg said. "And the fireworks we’re launching them from the highest point in the city with the goal of people being able to spread out and watch them wherever they feel comfortable. So you’ll be able to see them from pretty much anywhere in town but especially anywhere downtown and on the Statehouse lawn. So there’ll be plenty of space to spread out. Similarly the 5K race, which we’re not organizing, but there’s several events that other people are organizing and we’re helping to promote, also outdoors. And then those events that are taking place indoors they’re being very cautious about requiring either vaccination or negative test results.”

For 14 years the village of Saranac Lake held First Night celebrations. It cancelled the event last year due to the pandemic with hopes of reviving the festival this year. But in mid-November the First Night Saranac Lake board announced that due to the high incidence of COVID-19 in northern New York it is once again cancelling the event.

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