Occupy Dover is spearheading the People's 1st Nite on Legislative Mall, a family friendly New Year's Eve event running from noon to midnight Saturday, Dec. 31.
For 15 years, Dover residents didn’t have to go far to find a New Year’s Eve event that entertained the entire family. First Night Dover lit up downtown every New Year’s Eve from 1996 to 2010 with entertainment, games, fireworks and the traditional ball drop.
On Feb. 1, 2011, however, the First Night Dover Board of Directors announced it would not host a 2011 event. The grants and donations that funded First Night since its inception had dried up with the economic downturn, leaving the non-profit corporation shy of the $70,000 to $100,000 necessary.
Enter Occupy Dover and a group of volunteer musicians, crafters and organizers. The group is trying to emulate the spirit of the original First Night Dover with their own family-friendly, non-alcoholic event on Legislative Mall dubbed People's 1st Nite.
Organizers have the proper permits to set up on Legislative Mall New Year’s Eve, according to event spokesperson Fran Ryl, and have invited vendors, crafters, entertainers and others to take part in the day.
From noon to 5 p.m., vendors and children’s activities will be on the mall, and at 5 p.m. the live music will start and continue through midnight.
Ryl said that this would be a low-key version of the event Doverites are used to. There won’t be fireworks at midnight, and they’re working to build their own ball drop.
“It’s not going to be the extravaganza that $100,000 can get you,” she said.
Entertainers include T-DOT, Nichols DJ and Karaoke Services, H2O Victory Entertainment, Yung Beamer Victory Entertainment, Nick Vegas Victory Entertainment, Fiyah B Victory Entertainment, Dee-N-Dee Productions, Counting Down the Days, Whiskies, Shutters, Brene Wilson, Fading Fear, Awake at Last, Mutant Kadavers and DJ RIL.
Ryl stressed that the Occupy Dover supporters are not planning to use their 1st Nite as a political platform, but purely for entertainment.
“Occupy Dover is not going to hijack this thing, we’re just helping put it on,” she said.
One of the vendors setting up at this year’s event is Sherie Vaughn, owner of Needful Things consignment store on Loockerman Street.
Vaughn used to volunteer and usher when the original First Night started in 1996, and said the effort to revive the event is a noble one.
“I just think it’s a good tradition. It’s good for Dover, I feel,” she said. “I also feel that it’s a good venue for young people to kind of grow up in that area where it’s not just partying and drinking and that sort of thing.”
Vendors also have agreed to donate 10% of proceeds to a local charity.
Greg Patterson spent years as a board member of First Night Dover trying to provide such an event, a task that became increasingly difficult with dwindling grant money and donations. After last year’s party the organization decided they could not commit to a 2011 event.
“We just didn’t think we could plan what people thought of as a First Night Dover event on what [money] we could reasonably expect to bring in,” he said.
Patterson said he hopes this year’s event goes well and he commends its organizers for trying to do something positive for the community. As for whether the original First Night will ever return, that’s up to factors out of his control, Patterson said.
“If the economy recovers and we think that we could start back up, we’d love to,” he said. “But if I had to make the decision right now I think it will be at least another year.”