Meet the team behind Hamilton’s spectacular NYE block party
As the City of Hamilton planned its block party for New Year’s Eve, Jessica Astwood could only cross her fingers and hope for the best.
Mindful of the many celebrations that usually take place on December 31, her best-case scenario was that a couple hundred people would show up — maybe.
It turned out she was wrong.
“To get to the Christmas tree on the front lawn I had to fight my way through the crowd,” said Ms Astwood. “I was shoulder checking everyone just to get to that area. I really lowballed how many people would show up.”
It’s estimated that 5,000 people crowded the lawn in front of City Hall and its neighbouring car park as well as the length of Church Street between Queen Street and Washington Street.
A fire show by Cirqle Circus, performances by Devil’s Isle Audio and a Twitter resolution wall were all part of the free event.
The main attraction was a 3D projection about the history of Hamilton. Ms Astwood managed to pull it off with help from Tamara Bradshaw, Sideya Dill and Allison Tucker.
“Few people know there is just four of us organising everything,” said the event project manager who has shared her expertise with the Toronto International Film Festival and the iconic department store, Hudson’s Bay Company.
She moved back to Bermuda six years ago to become client relations manager for the 2017 America’s Cup and joined the City of Hamilton team in 2018.
“For an event of a similar size to this we would have had at least ten people,” she said. “There would be four or five people working on social media alone.”
Ms Astwood credits Ms Dill with “masterminding” the high turn out.
The marketing co-ordinator cut her teeth on Taste of Bermuda, the culinary weekend held by the City last October, having only been on the job since June.
“The biggest challenge is always getting the word out there,” Ms Dill said. “I asked my friends and family, ‘How do you get information about upcoming events?’.”
She was surprised to learn that many people, particularly older people, learn what’s happening through old-fashioned word of mouth.
The challenge became getting the right people to pass on information to the target demographic; advertising in the media helped.
Hard work also played its part, with much done after hours and on weekends.
“It is the nature of the business,” said Tamara Bradshaw who has been with the City of Hamilton for eight years and serves as its project and rentals coordinator. “It is just one of those things. No one complained or got snappy with each other, which was great. Coffee helps. It was definitely a team effort.”
The group went back and forth about whether to use 3D projection mapping, a technique used to turn irregularly shaped objects into a display surface for video.
Ultimately, they laid out the various stages of Hamilton’s history directly on the walls of City Hall.
“We chose to use it because we really wanted to get the history of Hamilton, and Bermuda, across to the general public,” said Ms Tucker, the city’s senior events and marketing co-ordinator.
In order to tell the story of Hamilton’s heritage, she first had to learn about it herself.
“It was a real lightbulb moment for me,” Ms Tucker said. “When you grow up you hear stories of this and stories of that.
“Everyone has been to this fort and this park, but when you read about it, it clicks.
“The more we know about Hamilton’s history, the more we are able to get that message out there into the community.”
She worked at the Fairmont Southampton before joining the City of Hamilton a year ago.
“I dealt with all the weddings, groups and socials,” she said. “This is a little bit different. This is probably a bigger challenge because we are catering to people across the spectrum.
“This time it is hitting everyone and making sure that everyone who comes feels like they should be there, and are happy to be there and there is something that piques their interest.”
With the block party behind them, the women are already looking to future events.
Drive-in movies, a town crier competition, concerts in the park and a roller-skate party are all on the cards.
“We’re in the thick of getting things together for this year,” Ms Bradshaw said.
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