The number of revelers who rang in the new year at First Night Akron was down this year.
The event drew about 14,000 people, compared to 17,000 last year, according to organizers who attributed the drop to snowy weather and icy roads.
“The weather was a factor,” said Sharon Gillberg, the spokeswoman for Downtown Akron Partnership, which coordinates the annual downtown event.
Still, button sales for the visual and performing arts festival make up only a portion of the event’s revenue, which also is helped by grant money and sponsorships.
“A slight decrease [in button sales] doesn’t put us at a loss,” Gillberg said. “It’s still funded all the way.”
A button for First Night was included in the Downtown Akron Passport, which costs $15 for 16 events. Passport sales have surpassed those from a year ago, though it is difficult to determine if the First Night buttons that came with the passports were used.
“These residents have invested in downtown events and activities for 2013, and we’re appreciative of that,” Gillberg said. “We strive to draw people downtown all year long and not just for one night.”
Downtown Akron Partnership is conducting a survey on its website, www.downtownakron.com, to solicit feedback about the latest First Night event. Those who complete the survey have the chance to win tickets to next year’s event.
Planning for next year’s event already has begun. Organizers hope to bring back some of the new attractions from this year that were popular, including the Air Aquarium in the John S. Knight Center that allowed people to enter the belly of an inflatable whale and glide 50 remote-control fish and shark balloons through the air, and a class that taught people how to play the harp.
First Night organizers thanked the 400 volunteers who staffed 10 venues and the partners and sponsors who helped fund the event.
“Without the support of our founding partners at the Akron Beacon Journal and the city of Akron, and the support of our valued sponsors, First Night Akron simply couldn’t happen,” said Suzie Graham, president of Downtown Akron Partnership.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @swarsmith.