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Future of First Night Akron uncertain after 2015

Posted at 4:08 PM, Dec 29, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-29 18:42:33-05

First Night Akron is gearing up for its 20th annual New Year's Eve celebration, but the future of the family-friendly event is in doubt after revelers ring in 2016.

Suzie Graham, president of the Downtown Akron Partnership, said the organization is reviewing the tradition and will consider dropping the First Night name and creating a more centralized event.

"I think the worst reason to continue to do something is because you've always done it, so you should always be asking important questions about is the event still relevant? Is it still funded the same way? Are people still attending it the same way that they have in the past? The answer is no," Graham said.

Graham stressed no decisions have been made about the future of First Night Akron, but she pointed out the event has experienced a drop in attendance and corporate donations are down about $10,000.

The highest attendance was roughly 30,000 people in 1999, but over the last few years, about 14,000 people have shown up for the party.

At one time, First Night averaged about a $300,000 budget, but today it stands at $168,000.

Corporate contributions fund $70,000 to $80,000 of the cost, while button sales and money from the DAP make up the difference.

"We want to make sure that we can right-size the event for the funding that we are able to receive and also make sure that it is a right-sized event so that if feels vibrant," Graham said.

One big change that visitors will notice for Thursday's event is alcohol will be sold for the first time in the event's 20-year history. Beer and wine can be purchased at the Civic Theatre, Akron Art Museum and Lock 3.

Graham said dance shows, bands, and other activities celebrating the arts will be spread out over 10 venues.

In addition, there will be several fun spots for kids, including a video gaming truck and inflatables.

At 9 p.m, a laser light show will take place inside the John S. Knight Center and a fireworks will be set off at midnight on Main Street.

Admission buttons can be  purchased for $10 and kids under 10 are free.

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