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new years eve

By Amy Fendley In the midst of the busiest season Whistler has ever experienced came thousands of people looking for a place to party on New Year’s Eve. And although it wasn’t Times Square, the Whistler First Night 1999 celebrations in the Village Square attracted more than 10,000 people — the largest crowd the event has ever hosted. "From the production end of things it was an interesting co-operation (between organizers) and things went really well," said Maureen Douglas, director of festivals and events for the WRA. "Every year we struggle with new managers coming into the resort, who take one look at our set-up and see it as a situation that could become volatile. Generally it is safe, clean and people are happy. "This was definitely the largest crowd we’ve ever had, the weather was ideal for Whistler. The critical mass usually comes between 11 p.m. and midnight and at that time the capacity was getting a little difficult to handle." Whistler RCMP attempted to do the best they could with crowd control New Year’s Eve by bringing in 27 officers from Vancouver. But Cpl. Mike Shannon says that next year they will have to do things better to assist the WRA. The RCMP’s concern is in part that if this year’s celebrations were bigger than last year, what sort of numbers will New Year’s Eve at the millennium bring. "New Year’s was a peach," said Shannon. "The event staff and co-ordinators were magnificent in assisting with the overall process. But there were people throwing passes over the fences, walking in, grabbing passes and taking them back to their friends. "There needs to be a better strategy to control people going in, because people were obviously bringing in large amounts of liquor. The fences came down just after midnight and everyone flooded in and augmented the people already inside. Whistler Transit did a great job in getting people out of there as things got crowded." Thirty-three people were arrested New Year’s Eve and spent the first night of the new year locked up. "We tried to take the high road with everyone, but 3,300 could have been arrested, let alone 33," said Shannon. RCMP and bylaw officers will be meeting within the next few weeks to discuss plans for next year. Plans for the millennium celebrations have not yet been set, although the WRA says they are looking a little more upscale. "We’re thinking about involving fireworks and we’re trying to get access to some cool countdown clocks," says Douglas. "Before the end of January we will confirm the entertainment and get the security, the gates and ticket sales lined up." The First Night celebrations are organized by the RMOW, the WRA, the RCMP, Whistler Transit and Mountain Community Health Alternatives.

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