If you want to ring in the New Year in downtown Edmonton this year, prepare to do it three hours early.
The City of Edmonton is holding its annual New Year’s Eve fireworks display at 9 p.m. this year, instead of at midnight.
Spokesperson Tannia Franke said there were several reasons for the decision, including that the earlier time is more “favourable” for families with young children.
This year’s New Year’s Eve celebrations are moving from Churchill Square to the Alberta legislature grounds, due to construction on the Valley Line LRT.
Franke said the city needed to find a space that could accommodate the large crowd. The festivities will be held between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. at the Capital Plaza next to the federal building. Some of the family friendly events will be held inside the federal building.
Because the Alberta legislature grounds are surrounded by more homes and residences, the city said it also wanted to be sensitive to them.
Plus, with the Edmonton Oilers game letting out of Rogers Place at around 8 p.m., Franke said the city hopes people will head straight to the legislature grounds for the fireworks.
Last year, the City of Edmonton held two fireworks shows — one at 8:30 p.m. and another at midnight. The city received extra funding for the event as part of Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations.
Mayor Don Iveson said while the decision wasn’t his, he “gets it.”
“There were a lot more people out for the 8:30 p.m. fireworks and a lot more families out for the 8:30 p.m. fireworks last year,” he said. “When the odometer actually rolls over is not always the best time for people and their kids to be out.
“I get it. I think that that may mean that people are in a place where they can revel warmly and safely by midnight, but have had a lovely time with their families at the legislature grounds this New Year’s Eve.”
Public reaction to the move seemed mixed.
“It feels a little early,” Brendan Dzioba said. “9 p.m. is pretty early to go to fireworks. I personally would like 12, but I understand the other side of the argument as well.”
“It’s definitely a good idea to have them earlier,” Bryan Boulding said. “The sun goes down quite early, so 9 p.m. would be great. Parents could get home at a reasonable time.”
The change to the venue and time of the fireworks display will be in place for at least the next two years, until the New Year’s Eve celebrations return to Churchill Square in 2019. At that time, the city will reevaluate the 9 p.m. fireworks display.