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History of New Year's Eve in Parks

Image of New Year's Eve in New York

New Year's Eve in New York

When a New Yorker thinks of New Year's Eve, he or she usually envisions the ball dropping in Times Square, a city tradition dating back to 1906. However, there are records of public celebrations of the New Year in parks as early as 1897, nearly a decade before Times Square became the city's focal point.

A Birthday Celebration in City Hall Park

As a January 1, 1898 article in The New York Times reports, the 1897–1898 New Year's festivities heralded the unification of Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island. Despite the inclement weather (stinging rain and later snow), New Yorkers left their homes and flocked to City Hall Park to toast the birth of Greater New York and usher in 1898. The previously mentioned Times article describes an evening of fireworks, illumination, and cannon fire provided by its competitor The New York Journal. Additionally, a brass band, singing groups, and a parade, started at Everett House and continuing to City Hall Park, contributed to the festivities.

Determined to Party in Parks

New Yorkers continued their New Year's celebrations in parks once the boroughs were united, though the road to the holiday was sometimes rough. When the threat of cancellation of the 1912 Central Park New Year's Festival became all too real due to the City's lack of finances, prominent citizens like John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, and Dr. Arthur J. Smith swept in to save the evening. In 1971, the first time in years good weather was forecasted for the New Year's celebration, New Yorkers came to Central Park in full force to usher in the New Year, despite the threat of a bus and subway strike on December 31. Cancellation of the Central Park Festival once again menaced the city in 1976. A New York Times article on December 26, 1976 reports that because of financial concerns, the Commissioner of Culture did not consider a large park festival a fiscally responsible endeavor. This time, the skilled hands of a City employee, Wickham Boyle, Director of Special Projects, salvaged the fete. She and her dedicated team petitioned private sources in the city to keep the tradition alive, and the bash went off with a bang.

Today's Celebrations: Starting Anew in Parks

Throughout the years, the New Year has represented an opportunity to start over, accomplish goals that weren't attained the previous year, and correct past mistakes. As such, it remains an important holiday for all New Yorkers. Although the Central Park New Year's Festival no longer exists, other Parks traditions and celebrations have emerged. As you go about saying adieu to one year and welcoming another, make Parks a part of your merrymaking.


Image of Peaceful early evening at Bethesda Fountain (Central Park) on New Year's Eve 1967, before the arrival of revelers

Image of Peaceful early evening at Bethesda Fountain (Central Park) on New Year's Eve 1967, before the arrival of revelers

Image of New Year's Eve dancers wear ponchos to protect themselves from harsh weather on December 31, 1969.

Image of Bethesda Fountain is cramped with partiers wishing to celebrate the pleasant weather for New Year's Eve 1971.


Related Links

Holiday Events in Parks History: Holiday Celebrations in Parks

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