First Night Hartford: Fireworks, Festivities And Fog
By KEN BYRON
December 31, 2011
HARTFORD —— Attracted by activities throughout the downtown and relatively mild temperatures, thousands of people showed up for the city's 23rd annual First Night Hartford festivities.
Bushnell Park, City Hall, the Hartford Public Library and the Old State House hosted events, though many activities centered on the ice skating rink at Bushnell Park that is part of the city's Winterfest celebration.
There were also two fireworks shows, one at 6 p.m. and the other at midnight, to ring in the New Year. The fireworks at the first show had to cut through a thick fog downtown.
Mike McGarry, one of the event's organizers, said shortly before 6 p.m. that he was happy with the way things were going. He was working at the Pump House Gallery, where members of the Knights of Columbus were selling hot chocolate and crumpets and letting people warm up at a fire they had started.
"We had some tough years, years where we really should not have continued," McGarry said. "But it's good that we did because it's worked like a charm."
Kevin and Theresa Yeltema, from East Windsor, said they had come before just for the fireworks but decided to stick around for more this year.
"Museums are open, there are activities that seem fun. I was like, 'OK, let's make a day out of it,'" Theresa Yeltema said.
The fireworks prompted Bill Affinito and Kathleen Berrios to come from Vernon. They said it was their first First Night in Hartford.
The carousel at Bushnell Park was also open and attracted a large crowd. JoAnne Bauer, who came with her friend, Jyll Kashmann, said she is a veteran of Hartford's First Night and other New Year's Eve celebrations.
"I'm a Hartford resident and I love supporting the arts here," Bauer said. "And it's so festive, look at the children and adults having fun!"
Nicole Glander, a spokeswoman for First Night Hartford, said that attendance in the past has averaged about 20,000 people and that organizers were expecting about the same this time. While activities were spread out around the downtown, Glander said a departure from last year was that organizers increased the number of events in Bushnell Park.
This is the second year the city has had an ice skating rink at the park, but it is larger than last year's and Glanders said First Night was trying to make that a focus of events on Saturday.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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