Downtown Edmonton set for New Year's Eve party, as city warns about illegal fireworks

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In a year with the driest fall on record, Edmonton has seen a big increase in complaints about illegal fireworks.

Over 120 calls concerned such fireworks in 2023, doubling the previous year’s numbers, said Justin Lallemand, assistant deputy chief of fire prevention and education for the city.

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The startling year-end statistic coincides with the City of Edmonton’s planned pyro-musical New Year’s Eve event over the pyramids at City Hall.

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“We know that with the warm weather — look around, there’s not a lot of snow on the ground,” Lallemand said.

“Edmontonians are going to be going outside to enjoy the festivities tonight, and what we want them to do is enjoy them safely at events such as this one at City Hall,” he said.

Discharging or using any fireworks without an approved permit is illegal and subject to fines of up to $10,000.

There will be fire prevention officers at permitted events, along with police and peace officers on shift.

Residents concerned about illegal fireworks can call 311 to complain, or 911 if there’s a fire involved.

Fun for all at City Hall

Beginning at 6:30 p.m. in Sir Winston Churchill Square, Ron Walker will emcee a night of musical entertainment including Martin Kerr, Dahlia and The Villains, Curt Sipihoko Paskwawimostos, and Métis fiddler Darla Daniels.

There will be fire performances by FloWarrior, along with roving jugglers and acrobatics, and carolers from Korora .

Skaters can glide the City Hall Plaza ice rink to music by DJ Busyrawk. Free skate rentals and skate aids will be available on a first-come, first-served basis, and the skate change room will be open until midnight, conditions permitting.

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There will be a fire pit for warming, snacks available from food trucks including Soner Donair, Tiramisu Bistro, Canadian Kettle Corn, and Canadian Maple Shack, which will give the first 1,000 people a free maple stick.

L’Espresso Organic Café will be open with a variety of warm drinks, baked goods, pizza, sandwiches and more, and will feature performances by Ava Nayana (6-9 p.m.), Ken Stead (9-10 p.m.) and Eric Kane (10 p.m.-midnight).

City Hall is closed to the public on New Year’s Eve, but the Art Gallery of Alberta (AGA) and the Winspear Centre will be open as warming stations. The AGA will have art programming and the Winspear Centre will feature the musical talents of Sticks and Stone Percussion.

The Lucion Spheres–moonGARDEN art installation is on tap outside in the square and in front of City Hall.

A booming business

The fireworks business is booming.

Calgary-based Fireworks Spectacular is putting on Edmonton’s two shows on Dec. 31.

With 18 fireworks displays scheduled for New Year’s Eve around Western Canada, the company is seeing its best year yet, said president Brad Dezotell.

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“This show takes a lot of planning on the ground because we’re shutting down a section of Downtown Edmonton,” Dezotell said.

Over a month of planning goes into producing Edmonton’s two shows, with thousands of effects programmed into each show and run by local crew members.

The company has staged around 4,500 shows over the past 25 years, he said. The difference between the shows from 1998 and today is synchronicity — thousands of effects set to a unique sound track, computer-timed and precisely staggered so the shells explode mid-air with the beat.

Calgary and Edmonton approach New Year’s fireworks differently, Dezotell said. Calgary’s budget is bigger, and Edmonton spreads the sparkling out over two shows instead of just one.

This year’s 9 p.m. “family” show is playing to an oldies’ format, while the midnight show is more contemporary. Each year’s performance is unique from other years, said Dezotell, whose programming skills were honed in an early career in commercial radio in Western Canada.

Pyrotechnics is one of the only forms of entertainment that doesn’t do a dress rehearsal, he said.

“Fireworks are one of the things you need to see live, so come on down and see quite possibly the best weather we’ve had in Edmonton for a New Year’s Eve. It’s a great fireworks show for 2024. Come down and celebrate.”

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