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Published: Thursday, 8/15/2002

Farewell to First Night

It's regrettable that area residents won't be able to ring in the New Year by celebrating at First Night Toledo anymore. Even though entertainers performed free and thousands of dollars in debt were no longer an immediate issue, the attraction has succumbed to financial woes.

First Night Toledo was a perfect New Year's Eve event that both adults and children could enjoy. That it was alcohol-free made it a good place for parents to take their little ones, as there was lots to hold their attention, too.

But six years after the family-friendly celebration's first party in 1993, First Night Toledo faced an unfortunate series of events that began to devastate it financially: In 1999, major sponsors backed out, the executive director left to manage CitiFest, and the weather was extremely cold.

Although efforts to save First Night Toledo were futile, attempts to put it in the black deserve at least a nod of appreciation. Yet it takes more than apologies, partial payments, or no payment at all to vendors and performers for an event to remain viable. It didn't help when performers at the 2001 party gave up payment, and $85,000 in debts were put on hold, refinanced, or forgiven.

By then, though attendance had dwindled and the Performing Arts Council of Toledo, the parent group that sponsored the initial First Night party, had no choice but to call off the party. Those who liked it will miss First Night, but the sponsors made the right decision, given the group's financial woes.

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