Record-breaking First Night cost city $12,000

January 28, 1993|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

First Night Annapolis, the New Year's Eve celebration in the streets, cost the city more than $12,000 for security, transportation and cleanup, according to figures released yesterday by city officials.

Members of city departments that worked on the celebration met with the co-directors of First Night Annapolis yesterday in a post-event critique to identify successes and problems with the evening that is quickly becoming a regional tradition.

The biggest concern, city officials said, was the record-breaking crowd of about 30,000 that jammed the Historic District streets on a balmy, 61-degree night.

The warm weather meant that families with young children, who usually come for afternoon events and leave when it turns cold, decided to stay later. In addition, many tourists, who did not buy buttons that admitted them to indoor performances, decided at the last minute to come to Annapolis to see free performances and the fireworks at midnight.

The crowd milling about to watch free performances in shop windows and jugglers who wandered about overflowed barriers into the middle of Main Street, forcing police to close the street about 8 p.m.

But closing the street angered restaurant owners because many of their patrons, who had arrived by taxi, had no way of getting home.

"They come into town, they can't get out of town," griped Mike Ashford, owner of McGarvey's Saloon at the City Dock. "I think we should be able to continue to get taxi service into the town if we're going to continue this. We need the cabs and we need to be able to transport people out of town."

Thomas W. Roskelly, director of public information and tourism for the city, said he had received several complaints from people who paid $10 for the button that admits them to events, but were shut out because of long lines. On one level, he said, that did not trouble him.

"If someone is complaining about being turned away from a site, to me that's good news, because the sites were being properly managed as to how many people were being allowed in," he said.

On the other hand, he could sympathize with some who were steamed about paying admission and not being able to see what they wanted.

Those who pay the admission price intending to see a particular performance, but can't get into it perceive that they have been "ripped off," Mr. Roskelly said. And the that perception could become reality, he added.

"If you pay . . . to see a particular thing and you can't get in, you have been ripped off," Mr. Roskelly said.

Lana Nelson, co-director of First Night Annapolis, said that the organizers are concerned about the long lines and will work on a solution to that problem as they plan for next New Year's Eve.

"One point I want to make is we're not reaching for numbers. That has not been our goal," she said.

This year, First Night organizers sold a little fewer than 16,000 buttons, allowing some room for expansion if they can add more performance spaces, she said. But the event is reacing its limits, Ms. Nelson added.

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