New Year’s Eve a success 

Despite media’s claims that it was a ‘near-riot’, for the most part New Year’s went well

Whistler’s New Year’s Eve celebrations made national news this week as the local RCMP reported 106 arrests and "near-riot" conditions in the village. The National Post and both Vancouver papers ran the story on page one, the Globe and Mail put it on page seven, and the news was featured on both CBC radio and CBC news.

Considering the number of people in the village, the RCMP’s zero tolerance policy, and the success of First Night celebrations, however, event organizers say Whistler’s New Year’s celebrations are being given a bad rap.

"There’s a clear distinction between what happened at First Night and what happened in Village Square," says First Night event manager Maureen Douglas. "In the entire evening there was not one incident, altercation or arrest on the First Night site."

Approximately 3,500 single passes and 3,400 family passes were sold to First Night, which featured jugglers, face painting and live entertainment in Town Plaza.

Part of the confusion was due to an RCMP press release that stated "First Night at Whistler was plagued with drunk and violent behaviour" and that the "situation escalated into a near-riot."

The RCMP has since met with the municipality and First Night organizers and sent out a second press release that stated that the "First Night program in Whistler’s Town Plaza was a success," and that "feedback from participants on the family focused activities and entertainment was favourable."

Media were slower in picking up the second release, and Douglas is concerned that the country has been given the wrong idea.

"The Vancouver Sun showed up at 6:30 a.m. the next day, asking ‘where is all the damage?’ The work crews that were cleaning the village were like ‘what damage?’

"I think there was a lot of eye rolling over this one, that people understand things may have gotten blown out of proportion in the media again, but at the same time we have to address it, and let people know that the early reports were not an accurate depiction.

"Between 5,000 and 6,000 people left the First Night site, and they were happy. At least we’ll have word of mouth on our side," Douglas said.

For their part, the RCMP are sticking by their assessment that things did get out of hand in Village Square.

Shortly after midnight, some of the 5,000-plus crowd in the Village Square started throwing chunks of ice and bottles at one another. Two spectators were hit by ice, and one was taken to the hospital to receive stitches to her head. People were climbing trees and light poles around the village and a tree that was valued at approximately $1,900 was ruined.

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