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Sunday, May 19, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane’s New Year’s fireworks display moving to 9 p.m.; First Night hopes to make comeback

UPDATED: Sat., Dec. 22, 2018, 4:46 p.m.

Fireworks burst over the Riverfront Park clocktower as 2009 turns to 2010 Friday morning, Jan. 1, 2010 in Spokane. The fireworks will launch at 9 p.m. New Year’s Eve this year. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Fireworks burst over the Riverfront Park clocktower as 2009 turns to 2010 Friday morning, Jan. 1, 2010 in Spokane. The fireworks will launch at 9 p.m. New Year’s Eve this year. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

New Year’s fireworks will be back in Spokane despite the end of the city’s longtime year-end party, First Night.

Fireworks will be at 9 p.m. at Riverfront Park.

The Spokane Parks and Recreation Department took over the firework celebrations from nonprofit First Night Spokane. In years past, the group hosted a New Year’s Eve celebration with artistic events in various spots around downtown, but due to funding shortages it disbanded this year.

The Parks Department is launching fireworks at 9 p.m. to make them more family friendly, said Fianna Dickson, Spokane parks spokeswoman. The Skate Ribbon will be open until 10 p.m., allowing for a blend of experiences that the Parks Department couldn’t host if fireworks launched at midnight.

“We’re trying to ensure families with younger kids can enjoy fireworks, too,” Dickson said. “You can watch fireworks while skating in the ice ribbon. That’s a pretty neat experience.”

The Looff Carrousel will be open until 9 p.m. and the SkyRide will be open until 8 p.m.

Lona Barnum, former executive director of First Night, said that volunteers are hoping to bring back First Night in 2019.

“We’ve got to have people rally around us,” she said.

“The formula was very successful for a good 13 or 14 years,” she said.

But after several months of meetings this year, time ran short, funding didn’t come through and not enough volunteers chipped in.

First Night would host about 40 small events in downtown venues, mostly indoors. Local artists and musicians would perform or create art in empty spots between the skywalks connecting downtown buildings.

“Imagine yourself putting on a Christmas party for 35,000 people and then imagine doing it in 40 places,” Barnum said.

On top of organizing First Night, the cost of fireworks was too much.

“They’re very expensive,” she said. “Even for a 3- to 5-minute show, you’re talking thousands and thousands of dollars between insurance and licensing, police and fire. I don’t think the public realizes that.”

First Night cost about $200,000 to host, and last year it drew half of the 6,000 attendees it needed to break even.

The First Night website is down, but Barnum said it will be back in February, and anyone looking to volunteer or donate should at that time check the website, at www.firstnightspokane.org.

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