HAZLETON — For the first time in about a decade, Hazleton is not hosting a First Night celebration on New Year’s Eve. The city scrapped an event that had become a popular tradition.
It all comes down to the money. First Night was actually losing money for the city, and when the woman who organized the New Year’s Eve event got a new job, the city never filled her position.
First Night regulars said they’re going to miss it.
This New Year’s Eve was just another business day for Peg Bono. For the past several years, she’s kept her dragonfly cafe open until midnight on New Year’s Eve for downtown Hazleton’s First Night event.
“First Night was great because we saw pretty much a steady stream of customers. A lot of them were new people that we don’t get to see during the week or people from out of town, and it was always just a really positive, upbeat night for everybody,” said Bono.
Since 2001 the city has hosted carriage rides, game shows, and fireworks for a night of New Year’s Eve family fun downtown.
This year the party’s over.
Mayor Joe Yannuzzi said the event was becoming more of a financial burden than an economic boost. He said he’s sad to have cancelled it, but it just didn’t make sense to keep First night going.
“We use our highway, our fire department, we prepare for the events all over town and it’s really an expense, and it’s a struggle.”
Scott Post works at Carmen’s Deli on Broad Street. For years, he took his girlfriend to First Night.
“I’m kind of upset. I liked going down there every year, and we watched the fireworks and we’d sit there with the grandkids and stuff. We had a good time,” said Post.
Peg Bono said she skipped First Night last year, and said if she knew it would be the last one, she would have made sure to go.
“I think that it’s a shame. I really do. I’m going to miss it this year because it was a great event for families, and I think it’s going to be missed. I’m sorry that it’s not coming back.”
Mayor Yannuzzi said with the way things are going with the city’s finances, he hopes he won’t have to also cancel July 4th fireworks this year.