December 30, 2013


First Light celebration set

Contributing Writer

As 2013 comes to a close, the city and the Cortland Downtown Partnership will conclude the year with the city’s second annual First Light New Year’s Eve celebration Tuesday evening.
The event, brought back last year after a lack in funding canceled it in 2011, will feature the traditional ball drop and fireworks display as seen in past years, said Downtown Partnership Event Coordinator Jane Witty.
A large video screen streaming the ball drop in New York City will be featured for a second year, and with live music being featured in local venues and the presence of numerous street vendors, Witty said she believes this year’s festivities have the potential to be a prominent local event for years to come.
“Downtown is the heart of the city, and we aim primarily to host events that create memories,” Witty said. “We want to foster a positive attitude and celebrate the community we have. It’s a universal celebration about reflecting on both success and improvement, and we believe our town needs that type of unity.”
Witty said a few thousand people are expected to be on Main Street for this year’s celebration, to take place at the intersection of Main, Tompkins and Port Watson streets. She said since its 2000 inception, the Downtown Partnership’s event has attracted crowds numbering in the thousands some years, and provides a stimulus to businesses downtown.
The event was organized by a volunteer promotions committee. More than $7,000 was raised in sponsorships, with 75 percent of that amount coming from premier sponsors Edward Jones Financial Advisor Jason D. Cicioni and McNeil and Co.
Additional sponsors include The Royal Auto Group, the Cortland County Restaurant and Tavern Association, Prime Payroll Relief and Coffee Mania providing a share of the financial support.
Cicioni, a former member of the Downtown Partnership’s planning board currently on leave of absence, is entering the 2013 festivities as a premier sponsor for the first time after several years as a contributing sponsor.
“Leading up to this year as a member of the board, it didn’t look like a New Year’s event was even going to happen due to the lack of sponsors, so our area offices ended up footing the gap ourselves to make sure it went off without a hitch,” Cicioni said. “It’s a good thing for Cortland and the community, and I can’t understand why more people here aren’t in support of events like this. We need more safe, family oriented events in the Cortland community.”
As a member of the board, Cicioni said organizing the event typically entails finding suitable sponsors, acquiring fireworks for the end of night display and keeping the environment safe for people of all ages.
“We make sure that there won’t be too many problems or trouble,” Cicioni said.
Business owners and members of the Downtown Partnership anticipate solid patronage from those making the venture downtown for First Light.
Tammy Timmerman, president of the Cortland County Restaurant and Tavern Association, said that local bar and restaurant owners, operating independently from the organization, often adjust their business strategy to take advantage of the holiday.
“We don’t do anything as a group, but a lot of places are having specials and providing entertainment. Each of our members essentially do their own thing,” Timmerman said.
Skip Boise, the national director for the state Restaurant and Tavern Association and owner of The Tavern at 139 Main St., said the act of holding a large scale event downtown has its own benefits for downtown business.
“Before, we haven’t been open too often for New Year’s Eve, but ever since the crowds started coming out downtown for the night, we started to,” Boise said. “It’s another night, but with the fireworks and all of the other things going on downtown, as a business, you’ve got to approach the night accordingly.”
He said the role of the Downtown Partnership in involving local businesses on the fringe of downtown Cortland has done its share in boosting the patronage on the southern end of Main Street.
“It’s a big night for us, we staff well for it, and it’s truly meaningful for this side of town,” Boise said. “It sometimes seems everything ends at Tompkins and Port Watson Street, but the Downtown Partnership has been doing a great job of trying to incorporate the rest of Main Street into the Main Street concept.”
Festivities are slated to officially kick off at 10 p.m. with the ball drop to take place at midnight from the clock tower at the southwest corner of Main and Tompkins streets. At 9 p.m., Main Street will be closed to traffic from Court to Tompkins streets, with the intersection of Main, Tompkins and Port Watson streets shutting down at midnight for the ball drop.


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