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Light up the sky; Needling by talk-show host helped.

Byline: Aaron Nicodemus

WORCESTER - First Night's fireworks displays are back, thanks to the generosity of Polar Beverages and some needling by a Boston talk-show host.

Polar Beverages has stepped forward to fund the entire $15,000 cost of the two annual fireworks displays on New Year's Eve, after news earlier this month that the displays had been scrapped because of shrinking financial support.

Christopher Crowley, executive vice president and treasurer at Polar, said a radio talk-show host making fun of the city's plans to have children step on Bubble Wrap in place of fireworks convinced the company to fund the city's annual fireworks display.

"They were making fun of Worcester for having Bubble Wrap instead of fireworks," he said. "We're always portrayed as the red-headed stepchild to Boston, and we thought, we can do something about this."

Michael Graham, a talk-show host heard from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily on Boston's Talk 96.9 WTKK-FM, thought switching out fireworks for Bubble Wrap was hilarious.

He said in an interview yesterday that he mocked Worcester for about an hour during his radio show. "We talked about how pathetic it was," he said. "We wondered if it was done because Worcester is worthless, or cheap."

Then, he said, they theorized that perhaps it was loony liberals protecting their kids from the dangers of fireworks.

"You don't know if people were just being dumb, or politically correct," he said. "Kids are not so stupid to think jumping on Bubble Wrap is the same as fireworks." He said that UPS ought to sponsor the Bubble Wrap. "They've got tons of the stuff," he said. When told that, indeed, UPS had donated the Bubble Wrap, he said, "I thought it was comedy. It turned out to be reality."

This is the first time Polar Beverages has stepped forward to aid First Night Worcester in such a significant way.

Mr. Crowley said that in the past, Polar Beverages has supported First Night with donations of soda and water for volunteers. In 2000, the company gave some memorabilia and salt shakers with First Night logos on them.

"This is really the first opportunity we've had to really step forward and help them out," Mr. Crowley said. "We have to keep those Boston stations in line."

When it was announced in early December that the First Night fireworks were canceled, the replacement for the kids was to be a giant carpet of Bubble Wrap laid out on the steps of the Worcester Memorial Auditorium. The idea was for kids to jump on the packaging

and create their own fireworks effect.

For the adults at midnight, the fireworks replacements were to be resolution wish sticks that would be burned in large fire pits called resolution fires. With fire jugglers performing on the Common and a simulcast of the countdown in New York City's Times Square on a large television, it was thought, who would miss fireworks?

All of those events will still go on, according to First Night Worcester Executive Director Joyce R. Kressler. Now fireworks will light up the sky as well.

First Night Worcester, a nonprofit organization, is "ecstatic and thrilled by Polar's generosity," she said.

"First Night Worcester is the second-oldest New Year's Eve celebration in the world and the reason this longstanding tradition continues is because of citizens and corporations like the Crowley family and Polar Beverages that continue to support the work that we do year-round in celebration of the arts," she said.

Traditionally, First Night Worcester has put on two fireworks displays, one for children and one at midnight, with viewing of both at the Auditorium. This year, the fireworks will be viewed from two places.

The children's fireworks viewing will take place at 6:30 p.m. in Lincoln Square at the steps of the Auditorium. Viewing of the midnight fireworks will be moved from Lincoln Square to the Common in downtown Worcester.

The fireworks will be shot from atop Bell Hill off Belmont Street, where they are lighted every year, Ms. Kressler said.

Had the fireworks shows remained canceled, it would have been the second straight New Year's Eve celebration in the city without fireworks. Foul weather canceled last year's show.

"The Crowley family and Polar Beverages are shining examples of all that is good about Worcester. They believe in our community and in the causes they support," said City Manager Michael V. O'Brien, in a prepared statement.

"This is great news and a wonderful indicator of even more good things to come in the New Year."

Ralph Crowley, in the same statement, added: "Polar Beverages and the Crowley Family realize that 2009 has been a difficult year for many. First Night Worcester is a traditional family event which has always featured two fireworks displays. We are delighted that we are able to help put them back on the program."

Ms. Kressler said First Night Worcester was also able to revive the fireworks show at the last minute because of the nonprofit's longstanding relationship with Atlas Pyro Vision Productions of New Hampshire, the company that has put on the fireworks in Worcester for many years. Atlas worked with the Worcester Fire Department to obtain a permit. First Night Worcester also worked with the city's police and Department of Public Works to make sure the fireworks could happen.

"It's not just OK, let's do fireworks," she said. "You have to make sure that all of these things are in line to put on a safe, successful fireworks show."

First Night Worcester will showcase eight continuous hours of music and performances in more than 20 venues around the city. Buttons are required admission to all performances and activities, but the fireworks shows are free.

Buttons are available at CVS, Price Chopper and other retail locations. They are on sale for $8 until Christmas, then the price increases to $12 until December 31. They will be available at First Night for $15. Children 10 and under are free. More information is available at


CUTLINE: (1) First Night fireworks will return this year, thanks to a donation from Polar Beverages. (2) Michael Kevin Farrell of Billerica puts on a Poi Fire Spinning show before the fireworks display at First Night Worcester activities in 2007. (3) Brittany Feliciano, 11, practices dancing while on stilts yesterday at Ritmos Academy. The class is preparing for the Starlight Cabaret at Mechanics Hall on First Night.

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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Dec 22, 2009
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