Thousands attend successful First Night 

Dozens arrested as RCMP deal with underage drinking, public intoxication

click to enlarge Happy New Year Crowds gather in Mountain Square to ring in the New Year, as fireworks burst over the village. Photo by Andy Dittrich, Insight-Photography.com
  • Happy New Year Crowds gather in Mountain Square to ring in the New Year, as fireworks burst over the village. Photo by Andy Dittrich, Insight-Photography.com

Families and children rang in the New Year Whistler style at another successful First Night celebration in the village, while police remained busy elsewhere in the resort.

Roughly 40 people were arrested on New Year’s Eve for things like being intoxicated in public and causing a disturbance, but they didn’t mar the fun for the First Night revellers.

“It was good,” said local mother Danielle Kristmanson, who went to First Night with her two children, ages six and four, and her extended family. “I think it was the perfect thing for families.”

While the final tally on the numbers is not yet complete, early estimates are that roughly 6,500 people attended the celebration this year.

And the number of families attending, in particular, local families, seems to be on the rise.

“Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves,” said Diana Waltmann, the municipality’s information officer.

“The number of families coming out is increasing.”

Like last year, First Night was contained to outdoor fun in Village Square and indoor activities at the Telus Conference Centre. At one time First Night snaked throughout a larger portion of the village.

“We’re just trying different things based on customer feedback,” said Waltmann.

“We’re going to revisit whether or not to expand.”

Several entertainers were on hand, including Allison Crowe and Norman Foote, and there was an early New Year’s countdown for the kids who couldn’t last until midnight.

Part of the family fun was The Whistler Holiday Experience at the conference centre, a free family fun zone with nine holes of miniature golf, a bouncy castle and sliding village, video games and festive-themed films.

That programming is scheduled to end Jan. 6 after running for two weeks over the holidays.

Like First Night, The Whistler Holiday Experience was put on by the municipality.

While the final costs are not yet in, Waltmann said the municipality spent $27,000 on the programming last year and it was comparable to this year’s programming.

The money comes from hotel tax, not property tax, and Tourism Whistler provides the space at the conference centre free of charge, with the municipality picking up some operational costs.

The municipal-run events were done in conjunction with Whistler-Blackcomb, which put on a torch light parade and The Mountain Show.

Despite the success of First Night, Whistler’s beefed up police force, which had 50 extra members for a total of 65 officers on duty, was kept busy throughout the evening. They responded to 78 calls for service.

In addition to several arrests for public intoxication and cause of disturbance, two people were arrested for assaulting a police officer.

Cst. Afzeel Yakub said generally partiers had a bad attitude when confronted with police.

“Alcohol seems to be a big factor in these sorts of things,” he said.

Underage drinking was another common occurrence.

The number of arrests compares to last year, added Yakub.

Police also had a very strong presence on the roads and five people were handed 24-hour suspensions in relation to driving under the influence.

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