Boston readies for a warmer New Year’s Eve celebration

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BOSTON – With warmer temperatures in the forecast for New Year’s Eve, larger than usual crowds are expected for Boston’s annual First Night celebration, but event organizers are hopeful that the temps won’t rise so high as to melt away the traditional ice sculptures right before the viewers’ eyes.

“Obviously the big question is the weather and the weather looks like it is going to be okay,” said Toni Nunziante, a spokesman for Conventures, the event producer. “It’s probably a little warmer than we would like in terms of ice sculptures but I think they will hold up.”

This year’s events, ranging from puppet shows and musical performances to spectacular fireworks displays, are all free and are expected to draw tens of thousands of spectators into the city. The First Night Boston schedule features plenty of family-friendly activities such as the parade from Copley Square to Boston Common, magic shows and face-painting demonstrations.

“The warmer weather certainly encourages people,” said Nunziante “I mean low 40’s high 30’s is very comfortable… it looks like if you bundle up, you’re going to be extremely comfortable there.”

First Night Boston attendees won’t need commemorative buttons to get into shows and other activities because everything is free. The events, which continue into Friday, will also be more concentrated around Copley Square and downtown, including on the Common and at the Old South Church.

The First Night procession begins at 6 p.m. in Copley Square and ends at the Common, where the first fireworks display will begin at 7 p.m. The parade will feature giant puppets, marching bands and a sparking fire dragon. Also on the Common, starting at 6 p.m., is an ice-skating demonstration on the Frog Pond.

The traditional midnight fireworks spectacular will take place on Boston Harbor, good viewing areas along the Harbor Walk from the Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park to the Seaport district.

At Copley Square, a countdown to the New Year will be highlighted by a pyrotechnic display and live music. Nunziante described the display as “sparklers on steroids” and said it will be accompanied by a large number 16 that will be projected on the side of the John Hancock tower.

“We think it’s going to be a very interesting approach,” said Nunziante, who encourages spectators to attend activities on both New Year’s Eve and on Friday, New Year’s Day. “We’ll see. It has never been done before that way.”

Photo from last year's event courtesy of Winter on the Waterfront

Photo from last year’s event courtesy of Winter on the Waterfront

For those who’d prefer to avoid crowds and take a more leisurely approach to the celebration, it will offer the Winter on the Waterfront display of 12 giant-size ice sculptures featuring maritime themes. These crystal creations will be located in different spots along the waterfront and downtown, organized for strolling viewers and will be paired with various family-friendly activities.

“Last year we were worried about a blizzard covering the ice sculptures,” said Christian Merfeld, program director with the Boston Harbor Association. “This year, we are actually watching the weather patterns” and modifying arrangements for the sculptures because of unusually warm temperatures and rain, he said.

Ice supplier Brookline Ice Co. will host sculptors in their temperature-controlled warehouse, where they can shape their creations, which will then be transported to the display locations to minimize melting. Typically, the sculptures are crafted on site in the days leading up to New Year’s Eve, to the delight of passersby.

Although the sculptures will be on display for less time than usual, Merfeld said, “I would rather have the nicer temperatures because that means more people will be out.”

A full schedule of events can be found here along with road closings here.