Last Night/First Day event is over
After six years, the Tisbury Volunteer Ambulance Association (TVAA) will not host a Last Night/First Day celebration in Vineyard Haven this New Year's Eve. There are no plans by any group to hold the event.
"We thought it would be important to let the Island know, because some people make plans way ahead, and this is what they intend to do," TVAA president Melinda Loberg said in a phone call last Friday. "And if somebody else is interested in taking Last Night/First Day on, we're happy to work with them and provide them with everything we've learned about running it."
"If it doesn't happen this year," Ms. Loberg added, "maybe some group will want to revitalize it or some form of it in a future year."
In years past, Tisbury's Last Night/First Day event provided Island revelers with choices of family activities starting New Year's Eve afternoon, including children's movies, comedy and musical performances, topped off with a fireworks display at night. A zany hat parade kicked off New Year's Day.
"We have a lot of trouble with having enough manpower to both carry on the duties of the ambulance service and to put on Last Night/First Day at that time of the year," Ms. Loberg explained. "We've been struggling the last few years with coming up with the right number of people to do it, and it has put a strain on the service and the few individuals that have been very involved. So, as much as we love the event, we also think perhaps this is the time for some new infusion of ideas and enthusiasm from another group."
After several years, the TVAA also had to reassess the fundraiser in terms of expenses. Last year the TVAA made the difficult decision to discontinue a fireworks display over Vineyard Haven harbor that traditionally ended Last Night/First Day.
The fireworks added another $10,000 in expenses, Ms. Loberg said, and involved special arrangements for transport to the Island. Although generous donors, such as Ernie Boch Jr. and his family, made the fireworks possible, the TVAA decided the expense and strain it placed on donors was too much, she explained. Many individuals, local businesses, churches, and non-profits gave cash or in-kind donations to help underwrite the community event.
"And we also recognized that during hard economic times, even though fireworks are neat, they really are sort of a luxury, and there are other things we maybe should be spending the money on rather than that," Ms. Loberg said.
As TVAA's main fundraiser, Last Night/First Day yielded about $8,000 to $10,000 a year, according to Ms. Loberg. With increasing expenses for the Tisbury Ambulance Department, staffed by three full-time employees and 25 volunteers, the fundraiser helped support equipment needs without more tax money.
"For instance, a couple of years ago we had to buy a new ambulance," Ms. Loberg said. "Also, state requirements changed what we have to do, and we have to get upgraded equipment. We have two ambulances to equip, so for some of the specialized equipment, we were able to buy that ourselves, rather than have our hand out to the town again."
The Ambulance Department often receives donations from people it helps as a gesture of thanks, Ms. Loberg added, which also helps with training and equipment costs.
With the decision to give up Last Night/First Day, Ms. Loberg said the TVAA board is considering several ideas for a replacement fundraiser that will be less labor intensive.
Tisbury ambulance coordinator Jeffrey Pratt suggested in a phone call Monday that reviving last year's New Year's Eve black-tie, high-top ball, held at the Saltwater Restaurant in the Tisbury Market Place, might be a possibility.
In the meantime, he and Ms. Loberg encourage other Island organizations to consider taking over Last Night First Day.
The Tisbury Business Association (TBA) and the Martha's Vineyard Chamber of Commerce also had their turns running the event in the past. After the TVAA took it over, Ms. Loberg said the Chamber of Commerce continued to provide financial and administrative assistance.
Both the chamber and the TVAA would be happy to offer advice and organizational materials to any group that would like to take over Last Night/First Day, Ms. Loberg said.
She suggested that organizations geared to families, for example Tisbury School's Parent-Teacher Organization or the YMCA, might be good candidates.
"It also might be an event that has run its course on the Island for the time being, and it feels that way to me, that people have been there and done that," Ms. Loberg said. "And the sense we have, too, is that for Islanders, the New Year's Eve holiday is one in which they stay close to home, and there aren't too many things going on because people don't go out much."
Mr. Pratt agreed. "We gave it our best shot, and I think this is the kind of thing that actually is good to cycle around," he said. "We're not looking for a New Year's Eve event to be absent from Tisbury. I think it belongs in Tisbury, and I like the fact it's a family event and an alcohol-free event."
Organizations interested in running Last Night/First Day may reach Mr. Pratt at 508-696-4214 for more information.