2016 celebrations a spectacular success
City officials have declared North Hamilton's big night on New Year's Eve a spectacular success. The festivities pulled in close to 1,000 people without incident and were well endorsed by area businesses.
Charles Gosling, the mayor, said the Corporation of Hamilton “had to pull out all the stops” to lay on such an ambitious event.
City councillor RoseAnn Edwards also acknowledged the risks involved in closing off traffic to several blocks of Court Street and their surrounding roads.
“Things went well, and I'm glad — I have in the back of my mind an idea which I'd like to start working on, to get some events in the calendar for Northeast Hamilton,” Mr Gosling said.
The mayor added that he planned to speak with area stakeholders on whether New Year's Eve or a night prior to Christmas would deliver better value.
Organisers said street crowds of such size had been unseen in the area since the Progressive Labour Party's electoral victory celebrations of 1998.
Ms Edwards vowed to push within the Corporation for its continuation.
“Unity in the community was displayed that night,” she said. “Let's look to the year ahead and keep building it.
“I want to wish the people of North Hamilton a healthy and happy 2016, and thank all the businesses and people for making the night a success.”
Organisers recruited the people of the neighbourhood as marshals and did not have to hire security for an open-air event that mixed children and adults, she noted.
“The fact that Governor George Fergusson came walking through quite comfortably goes to show what the community is like.”
For businessman Orande Nesbitt, whose shop Eru At'ile specialises in artisan soaps and African clothes, the night brought welcome foot traffic.
“There should definitely be a repetition of this,” he said. “You can't just expect people to embrace uptown culture once in a blue moon.”
Selecting some of his wares, a woman shopper said the night had afforded her a chance to look into places she normally just drove past.
Ricky Clarke of Nadz Beauty Salon said: “It's cool — we've got more people coming here. Something like this for December 24 might be a good idea.”
Judith Burgess of Sports 2000 Kids 2000 said she had been pushing for more than 12 years to see such a night.
“We need to keep it going, and let people know more in advance.
“I just found out the other night. But I'm surprised how many people turned out. A lot of people came in who had never been in my shop before.”
Between performing, maintaining the fun castle outside and running her shop, Street Vybez, “Tiny T” was having a “hectic” night — but she called for street festivals on an end-of-month basis.
“The music in the street brings Court Street alive,” she said. “It's nice to have it Back of Town, it's very good for business, and I hope it keeps going.”
Kim Knights of Gombey Urban echoed the sentiment: her custom design shop had opened for Christmas, but with hundreds thronging outside, visits held steady.
“I would love to see more of this come here,” she told The Royal Gazette.
The three proprietors of the plus-size clothes shop Intersection 45, which recently opened, said the night had brought “a lot of new faces”.
Giving her name just as Kita, one said: “Regular events that went without problems would encourage people to come. People who come to Court Street for the first time might be worried, but when it goes without incident, they come back.
“The community wants somewhere safe to go and really experience something. This will never be like Front Street but it's full of culture. The people who hang out here are colourful and the only thing they require from us is respect. All you have to do is say hello and they'll be your friends for life.”
Eugene Dean, one of the night's organisers, said there were already discussions brewing with the Corporation of Hamilton for next New Year's Eve.
“Naturally, they were watching this event very closely and it appears that last night's success has left a positive impression on us all,” he said.
Mr Dean noted that a large event had been achieved “relatively organically in a very limited time period, with minimal budget, and virtually no traditional promotion”.
“So many people were thanking us for bringing an event of this scale to North Hamilton and others took pride in sharing stories about major events that took place in North Hamilton in the past,” he said.
“The entire evening was incident-free, businesses were thankful for the additional traffic, and residents were very appreciative of the fact that their interests were being acted upon.
“The police had a consistent presence throughout the evening and they worked well with the team of volunteers from the area who dressed in uniform and acted as marshals at the road closures and gave general security and assistance throughout. Everyone was so co-operative and willing to help. People in the area event cooked for us. The love that we received was very much appreciated and truly heartfelt.”
Meanwhile, in St George's hundreds of partygoers enjoyed a night of music and fireworks.
A colourful display lit up the East End for New Year’s Eve as the Corporation of St George welcomed 2016 with fireworks.
Restaurants throughout the Olde Towne held their own parties to usher in the new year.
In King’s Square, a night of DJs and other entertainment culminated in the traditional Onion Drop — followed by pyrotechnics.