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no first night

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First Night snowed under By Don Anderson Too much snow forced the cancellation of Whistler’s First Night celebrations earlier this week, the first time in the event’s history that it had to be cancelled. "We can’t get the snow out of the village," said Maureen Douglas, director of festivals and events for the Whistler Resort Association, a day before Whistler was expecting to host upwards of 10,000 New Year’s revellers in the village. Snow removal from the village was complicated because all of the municipality’s and subcontractors’ plows were busy on the roads and outlying areas. Douglas said the snowfall would have hindered crews from erecting the stages and production areas, and there was little hope that other materials, including fencing, would arrive in time from Vancouver for the event. In addition to the snow problems, ticket sales for the alcohol-free event in the village were also down considerably this year. While the First Night celebrations in the village were cancelled, family activities at the Meadow Park Arena went ahead as planned. Douglas’ department had lined up a variety of performers, including blues diva Joani Bye, retro R&B band The Hightops, comedian/juggler Alex Elixir and a cappella group The Euphorics to play in the village. Many of the acts, including Bye, were unable to get to Whistler because of the extreme weather conditions that plagued southwestern British Columbia for the past two weeks. Douglas said the decision to cancel the event was made by the Festivals Department, RCMP, fire chief Tony Evans and Mayor Hugh O’Reilly. "This environment is so severe it is not suitable for First Night," she said. "We’ve gone into minus-20 and done it but we haven’t had this kind of snow. The bottom line is a combination of elements creates an unsafe environment to produce this for both the participants and performers." The cancellation was the first since the event was organized seven years ago in response to a need to have a controlled, more family-oriented event in the village. Mother Nature’s cold, snowy grip on Whistler this week also took its toll on local restaurants and grocery stores when food shipments from Vancouver were delayed because of road conditions.

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