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Ringing in 2009, Whistler-style

Find out what First Night, local clubs and bars have in store to celebrate the New Year

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What: First Night 2009

When: Wednesday, Dec. 31, 6 p.m.

Where: Village Square & Telus Conference Centre

Admission: In advance, $15 adults, $8 12 & under. Dec. 31, $20 adults, $10 12 & under.

It’s without a doubt one of the biggest nights of the year in just about any town — everyone is decked out in their finest apparel, anxious to count down to new beginnings. And New Year’s in Whistler certainly is no small event.

The resort attracts scores of visitors during the holiday season, with many people opting to spend their time (and money) in Whistler ringing in the New Year.

Sue Eckersley is president of Watermark Communications Inc., the company in charge of organizing and executing the annual party for a few thousand people.

The Resort Municipality of Whistler actually began organizing the First Night celebrations about 14 years ago, as an alcohol-free, family-friendly alternative to the over-the-top, alcohol-fuelled celebrations that typically come along with the holiday.

“It was a combination of creating a great event for our guests to participate in New Year’s Eve without alcohol, but also of creating an event in the village so that we didn’t have to be concerned with as much rowdiness,” Eckersley explained.

The evening features a wide range of musical acts, entertainers, a MuchMusic Dance Party and lots of family-friendly activities to get revelers of every age in the spirit of things.

Watermark took over the organization of the event five years ago, coordinating and executing the evening.

“It’s a big effort amongst a lot of different people at the municipality, and we have a lot of entertainers that return each year, so it’s a really fun event,” she said.

The First Night activities and entertainment aren’t free — though they’re certainly more affordable than a lot of the events at bars and clubs that evening — with tickets selling for $15 for adults, $8 for children under the age of 12, and kids two and under getting in for free. This year, if you don’t get tickets ahead of time, you can still purchase them the day of, though   prices go up to $20 for adults and $10 for kids.

“They just started on sale and it’s about the same every year. People wait until the last few days before they start buying tickets to decide what the weather’s going to be,” Eckersley said.

But the event comes close to selling out every year, with about 7,000 to 8,000 people coming out to join the party. And Eckersley is optimistic that current economic concerns won’t have a huge impact on attendance, though she is a bit leery of the cold weather.

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