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St. Pete’s First Night celebration canceled for 2022

Bill DeYoung



The Bubble Stomp. Photo: First Night.

For the first time in three decades, St. Petersburg will not have a First Night celebration this New Year’s Eve.

A lull in sponsorships, coupled with the effects on the ongoing pandemic made the event, which has an executive director, a volunteer board and an all-volunteer staff, not viable for 2022.

A cross between a treasure hunt, a street fair and trick-or-treating, the family-friendly First Night combines arts and entertainment events in downtown St. Petersburg (at area churches and in both Straub Parks) with an end-of-evening fireworks show.

Expenses for the nonprofit event, according to board chair Hal Freedman, include talent, fireworks, city services, banners, map-programs and administrative and logistics help. Revenue is solely from sales of decorative admission buttons and sponsorships.

In 2021, for the first time, First Night included – in addition to art shows and special music and theater performances – a special kids’ Fun Zone and festival on The Pier; a magic show, a “mad science” show and a Sea Creature Parade and procession down the Pier trolley route, on to Bayshore Blvd. for the perennial kids’ First Night favorite, the bubble wrap stomp. It marked the 29th consecutive First Night celebration.

In an email, Freedman said missing the event’s actual 30th anniversary will be tough – but there’s always 2023. “We hope,” he said, “with some sponsor support, and an end to Covid uncertainty, to bring it back next year for our 30th.”

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    August 23, 2022at10:31 am

    I think it rediculous to cancel First Night while using covid as a reason. We have had so few things to celebrate for two years, that to cancel this is just adding to that. People are not so afraid of covid and even the cdc has changed its restrictions. The city is spending money on many useless things, let the citizens celebrate the new year

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    August 23, 2022at3:13 pm

    Are they canceling the fireworks downtown Vinoy Basin/Straub Park?

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    August 23, 2022at10:09 pm

    What is the real reason? Is this story some kind of misprint? 1st night would be 2023 no?

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    August 24, 2022at1:17 am

    Cancelling for this reason is just silly.

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    Velva Lee Heraty

    August 24, 2022at11:15 am

    So sad coming at a time when we ALL could use some cheer. I’m not buying the “reason”. It’s more of an excuse. There’s been no effort all year to rally funds or volunteers so I’m not surprised. Let’s get a sponsor committed to our First Night event who is worthy of the honor. It’s time for a change.

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    Lynn Cerruto

    August 24, 2022at3:32 pm

    Seriously? I‘ll guess there is more to your reasoning than you are letting on. So much for making use of the beautiful new pier and its surroundings.

    Folks, maybe there will be enough pushback to make them reconsider.

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    Willi Rudowsky

    August 24, 2022at5:25 pm

    If you have not gone out fundraising on any free event yourself, you may not be aware just how difficult it is to get enough funds to pay for those events. If you want “free” events to continue, you need to personally step up with significantly more than $10-20. First Night pays for fireworks, talent, street closures, sanitation. None of that is free.

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    Tim K

    August 24, 2022at7:53 pm

    This is ridiculous in a city full of $3 million condos there’s no money for New Year’s Eve give me a break

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