A Thoughtful New Year

Country Fast Facts - American Samoa economy
About 20 towns around the country will celebrate this New Year's Eve with a silent night instead of First Night, canceling their arts celebrations in the wake of terrorism, economic weakness or a volunteer shortage.

But an organizer of First Night events in Boise, Idaho, said the need to nurture unity in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks was too great to cancel the city's downtown festivities.

Buffie Main of the Boise City Arts Commission said the theme this year is "Remember, Reflect, Renew."

"It's been kind of a fine line. People don't want to forget, but they also need a way to move forward," Main said Wednesday. "The community really needs a place to gather and welcome the new year."

Five of the affected parties are in New Jersey, according to First Night International, the Boston-based group that helps coordinate the alcohol-free events.

"I think the drop-off is due to the economy," said First Night International President Zeren Earls. "Nine-11, I think, just made matters worse. Some of these will come back next year."

Red Bank canceled its affair after losing sponsorship money. Several donors believed it was more important to give their money to attacks-related charities, Mayor Ed McKenna said. Six residents died at the World Trade Center.

"We actually had one sponsor ask for money back," McKenna said. "We're not upset about it - we certainly understand where sponsors are coming from."

Officials in other cities with canceled parties, including St. Louis, Santa Barbara, Calif., and Erie, Pa., cited a lack of volunteers and poor funding.

Main said St. Luke's Regional Medical Center committed to being the Boise event's primary sponsor well before Sept. 11. But additional fund-raising involved soliciting less money from more donors, she said.

About 180 First Night celebrations are planned in the United States this year, and many will have patriotic themes, according to First Night International's web site.

In Boise, participating artists have been invited to incorporate references to this year's theme in their works. A hands-on art project also will encourage people to decorate 3,500 paper leaves in honor of the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks. The leaves then will adorn branches carried in the People's Procession parade to city hall at 11 p.m.

San Diego will have an interactive display in the shape of a wall reminiscent of the World Trade Center remains. The community will be invited to contribute a building block with each pledge to build a foundation for the future.

Morris County planned to make a unity quilt to honor Sept. 11 victims, and Columbus, Ohio, has buttons featuring red and white stripes.

By J.J. Thompson © MMI The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed