Organizers of the New Year’s Eve party in downtown Jasper say planning is in full swing and going well, with their focus being big on fun, but also big on safety.
The Jasper Merchants Association took on the responsibility for this year’s New Year’s celebration two months ago when Jasper City Council voted against funding the party, which is in its fifth year. Three council members voted against funding the event, estimated to cost the city $25,000, because of anticipated increases to health insurance premiums.
“We are thrilled to be heading this up, and excited things are coming together,” said Jasper Merchants Association Vice President Kirk Raffield. “We want to thank our sponsors, the chamber, and local businesses that are helping out. What we want is for this event to be a safe place to have fun and not have to go to Atlanta. We didn’t want people in the county to find out 60 days before the fact that they weren’t going to have a party.”
Raffield said planning is going extremely well at this point. The popular D.J. Dano, who has provided entertainment for the event every year, will be back.
“He’s great and keeps the mood energetic,” Raffield said. “He’s a great motivator. We are trying to find other ways to keep the mood up and find things for kids to do. We’ll have sidewalk chalk, a hula hoop contest, and other activities to do through the night.”
Historically, there has been a ball drop, but during discussions at last month’s council meeting mayor and council expressed concerns about public safety with volunteers handling the ball drop. Deveraux Designs, the Jasper-based company that built the ball, has developed a plan that will modify the ball drop and prevent any safety issues. Raffield said a half ball will be lowered down a vertical arm, which will be fenced off to keep the public away. They will also stream either the New York ball drop or Peach drop on a 26-foot screen set up on Main Street.
There won’t be fireworks this year because of financial constraints, but there will be bouncy houses for kids, food and retail vendors, a special selfie booth, and other activities.
In terms of public safety, Raffield said JMA secured all fire and police officers needed for the event two days after last month’s city council meeting where he made JMA’s proposal.
“This is our first year doing this event and it’s a learning experience,” he said. “We would love to have the community come out and support it and looking ahead we will see if we want to take it on next year or if the city wants to take it.”
He said JMA will meet late winter to discuss what went well and what could be improved upon, and let city council know by March if they will handle the event next year as well.
The party will be held on December 31st from 8 p.m. to midnight.
JMA hosts several free events every year, including the Night of Lights parade and trick-or-treating on Main Street.