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Friday, December 26, 2014

For First Night, More Buck for the Bang

By James Lomuscio

Despite an almost 30 percent cost increase from the original budget, First Night Westport Weston fireworks will be launched from a barge in the Saugatuck River, Barbara Pearson-Rac, event coordinator, said today.

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Crowds on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge in Westport’s center watch the First Night fireworks last New Year’s Eve. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) WestportNow.com photo

Pearson-Rac had originally proposed having the 10 p.m., 200-foot high pyrotechnics display launched from the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge, shutting down Post Road traffic there for a half-hour, leaving one lane open for emergency vehicles only.

But the Board of Selectmen, citing safety concerns, unanimously shot that plan down at its Dec. 17 meeting. The selectmen based their decision on concerns voiced by police and fire officials.

Not wanting the event to be a dud, especially at a time most First Nights have shut down, Pearson-Rac said she worked closely with Second Selectman Avi Kaner to find an alternative. They talked with Amherst, N.H.-based Atlas Fireworks, she said, and the company’s consultant figured a way for a barge launch despite previous concerns the river’s water would be too low.

“It turns out that the tide is being cooperative,” Pearson-Rac said. “We thought it was going to be too low, but when we checked with the fireworks company, and they consulted their expert, they found there would be enough water. I don’t know how much water, but I know it won’t be terribly high.”

While not disclosing the amount, Pearson-Rac said the barge adds a hefty cost.

“It’s a huge expense to have the barge, 28 to 29 percent more,” she said. “I think its worth it because when we asked the public what they want, they want a finale, and it brings the community together. It’s an event.”

Albeit a short one.

“This will be five to seven minutes, so people cannot be late,” she said. “It’s going off at 10 o’clock, so they have to get there on time.”

Or earlier, she said. To that end, she said there will be music piped in to Jesup Green, a gathering place to watch the display, replete with a warming fire and six telescopes set up by the Westport Astronomical Society to watch more distant light in the night sky, which is expected to be cold and clear.

Last year about 1,800 people came to First Night, and this year Pearson-Rac is hoping for more.

“Most First Nights have gone bankrupt,” she said. “We’re one of the few alive.”

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Posted 12/26/14 at 07:04 PM  Permalink



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