Delray’s New Years Eve festivities focus on locals

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By: Marisa Gottesman Associate Editor
Delray Beach is known for ringing in the New Year with its family friendly First Night festivities that draw crowds of revelers.
This year, the downtown event may look a little different for folks used to the action-packed night. The Delray Marketing Cooperative, which is responsible for putting on the event, proposed a free, toned down event on the grounds of Old School Square rather than a ticketed event.
The new idea came after the city’s special events task force recommended not hosting an event at all due to rising costs to the city in providing public safety. The city’s marketing arm said they don’t want to go from having an annual event to nothing at all.
“It’s getting bigger and bigger,” City Manager Don Cooper told commissioners, adding the city doesn’t have enough public safety personnel to manage the event, other downtown events and respond to other emergencies.
Commissioners debated whether to cancel the event, keep it or scale it down.
“I would have some issues going from 100 MPH to zero,” Mayor Cary Glickstein said. “We are in a transition period with events.”
Ultimately, they did agree to the scaled down version of the event, which would be free to attendees, focus on the already running holiday activities like the carousel and ginger bread house and not be marketed by the city’s marketing arm.
Executive Director of the DBMC Stephanie Immelman said the event would take place from 5 to 9 p.m. and have family friendly activities like a photo booth, outdoor games and a DJ by the 100-foot Christmas tree.
The newly crafted event would cost the city $35,000 to produce plus any additional public safety expenses, according to the marketing agency. Previously, ticket sales compensated the cost of the $80,000 event.
“I personally think we should have something,” Commissioner Mitch Katz said. “We have had it.”
Katz said the commission has been getting flak from some residents about the change in how the city handles special events, which has led to many events like Garlic Fest leaving the city. He said the commission will be held responsible as “killing” First Night if no event takes place.
Commissioner Shelly Petrolia said she was shocked the special events committee recommended not having an event at all.
“It’s going from this high-end everyone comes to absolutely zero,” she said. “It’s one of the things we are known for doing. I think it would be a mistake to go to nothing.”
The cost of the new event has not been budgeted and commissioners said they would like to see a mid-year budget adjustment rather than fund the event out of the city manager’s contingency fund.
Before thinking about New Year’s plans the marketing cooperative is looking for people to assist in building the 100-foot Christmas tree.
The tree build takes place from Nov. 2-Nov. 22 at Old School Square. Build hours go from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Lunch is donated by local restaurants.
Tree builders are known as “Mother Fluffers” descend to the site in front of the Cornell Museum on the grounds of the Delray Beach Center for the Arts at Old School Square the first week in November. The fluffers pull all 3,000 branches out of their storage boxes, check all 15,000 LED light bulbs, fluff the branches and hang them on the tree.