The city will forgo its annual midnight ball-drop celebration in Uptown Kingston and instead host a family-friendly daytime event to ring in the New Year.
Mayor Steve Noble announced the plan earlier this week, citing poor weather at previous New Year’s Eve celebrations and a plethora of privately sponsored nighttime events.
“There’s already a lot of effort put into [New Years Eve] events all over the city,” said Noble Tuesday, Dec. 11. “This was an opportunity to put on an event that didn’t exist before geared towards a different crowd.”
The new event will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 31 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Andy Murphy Neighborhood Center at 467 Broadway. Activities include a dance party, kids’ games and activities, a free lunch provided by Family of Woodstock and a high-noon ball drop to ring in 2020.
Noble’s announcement brings an end to an annual tradition that began back in 2012 as an effort by a group of Uptown business owners to draw — and keep — a large crowd of revelers in the neighborhood on the biggest party night of the year. Along with the midnight ball drop, the Uptown celebration featured live music, fireworks and pop-up venues. At its peak, the event drew crowds of up to 5,000 to the streets of the Stockade District.
Uptown restaurateur Maria Phillipis was one of the co-founders of the Uptown ball drop. Phillipis said the event, while privately sponsored, enjoyed broad support from the city under the administration of Mayor Shayne Gallo. Gallo, she said, provided shuttle service for the event and had the city pick up the tab for police and sanitation costs.
Phillipis said that changed two years ago when Noble informed organizers that they would have to pay for city services and insurance for the celebration.
“We just didn’t have money for those things, you’re talking thousands of dollars,” said Phillipis who owns the popular Uptown eatery Boitson’s. “People think it’s easy, but try throwing a party for 5,000 people.”
In response to the increased costs, the event’s founders opted to turn over sponsorship of the ball drop to the city beginning in 2017. Over the next two years, the event was marred by inhospitable weather — sub-zero temperatures in 2017 and torrential rain last year. Noble said the vagaries of the weather were one of the reasons he opted for an indoor, daytime celebration for 2019.
“The first year was ridiculously freezing cold. [Local musician] Lara Hope tried to play and her fingers froze, and last year it was pouring rain,” said Noble. “The crowds were kind of dwindling.”