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Plenty to do for all ages at this year’s First Night celebration

Zero-tolerance alcohol and drug policy will be enforced

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There will be singing, dancing, crafts, entertainment, lots of hot chocolate and, of course, no alcohol at this year’s First Night event in Whistler Village.

"Our event is an alternative way of celebrating the New Year," said Bob Andrea of strategic alliances and events with the Resort Municipality of Whistler.

"We want to offer an alternative to those folks that would rather remain sober and do something a little bit more meaningful (like) taking part in some artistic endeavours."

Tickets, available at various locations including the Chamber of Commerce, Millennium Place and the ticket gazebo at the village base of Whistler Mountain, are $15 for adults, $5 for kids 12 and under, and children under 2 are free.

The evening kicks off with a Whistler-Blackcomb sponsored show at the base of Whistler Mountain in the village at 6:30 p.m. Spectators will be wowed with on-mountain stunts and entertainment, followed by a torch light parade down the ski hill.

Then revellers can head into the gated area of the village to enjoy a host of musical entertainment including Danny Sveinson, "the Rock and Roll Kid" and Allison Crowe, Nanaimo’s singing sensation, on the main stage in the Village Square.

(Go to www.whistler.ca for a full run down of events and times or check the ad in this week’s Pique Newsmagazine.)

There will also be a craft tent, the "Ice Palace" tent, which promises to get the young at heart – but not children – rocking, a kid’s countdown to New Year’s at 9:15 p.m. at Town Plaza, and many more activities as well.

"The event has really blossomed," said Andrea. "Now we are also adding a little extra entertainment value so it’s not just families and children having fun, it’s also singles and couples enjoying it too."

But be warned: organizers are serious about their zero tolerance policy for drugs and alcohol. Private security will be checking for people packing bottles and such and all will be confiscated.

And dozens of foot patrol RCMP will be walking the village checking to see who is naughty and who is nice. If you fall into the naughty category be warned that officers will ticket you.

"If persons are coming into the village and they have open liquor they will be ticketed for consuming liquor in a public place," said RCMP Staff Sgt. Norm McPhail.

"Minors found in possession of liquor will be ticketed as well. Ticketing does discourage people more than warnings do with open liquor."

It’s the same story for drugs in the village.

"Where grounds exist people will be searched and drugs will be seized, and depending on the discretion of the officer charges may be proceeded with," said McPhail.

RCMP officers will be brought in from other regions for the First Night celebration, bolstering the local force to 80 officers. The RMOW picks up the $80,000 tab for policing.

Roadblocks will be in place at both the south and north ends of the village as usual. And anyone driving into town with liquor in their car, but no set destination, will find themselves without their booze, as police will confiscate it.

"Ensure that you do have a place where that liquor is destined for," said McPhail.

"If you are coming to the village and you haven’t got accommodation or can’t answer the questions (from officers) appropriately then that liquor may be confiscated, depending on the circumstances."

The police will also have a softer side New Year’s night as two officers will walk the village in Red Serge and make themselves available for photo opportunities.

With the event’s focus turning to an alcohol-free celebration several years ago problems of rowdiness have diminished said McPhail. Officers expect about 40 arrests, down from the over 100 just a few years ago. Up to 8,000 people are expected to attend the event.

To get the most out of your evening arrive early and plan for the roadblock delays and security. And while many coffee shops will be open, and the Whistler Mountain Ski Club will be fundraising at their snacks and drinks tent, it’s probably a good idea to pack child-friendly snacks of your own.

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