October 21, 2021

New host, same tradition

Cortland’s First Light celebration will have familiar activities

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

Workers set up the ball that will drop from the clocktower building at the corner of Main and Tompkins streets for Cortland’s First Light event on New Year’s Eve.

While there may be a new host for Cortland’s First Light event on New Year’s Eve, the activities will remain the same.

Tim Bennett, who owns Cortland’s FunFlicks Indoor and Outdoor Movies, will run the event Dec. 31 to ring in the new year.

The event will feature a countdown to midnight beginning at 11 p.m. with a ball dropping from the clocktower building at the corner of Main and Tompkins streets, Bennett said. Following the countdown, fireworks will be displayed, weather permitting.

Inflatable video screens from FunFlicks will be used for presentations, though it will be a surprise as to what will be shown, Bennett said.

Bennett “wants to bring everyone together for fun and love,” he said.

McNeil and Co. Inc. will be the event’s primary sponsor.

First Light, along with two other community events — Taste of Downtown and Chill-A-Bration — used to be hosted by the Cortland Downtown Partnership before the organization ended its time as host in September.

“We don’t have any staff at the moment and the partnership felt another organization would be in a better position to hold these events in the manner in which the community is accustomed,” Evan Geibel, president of the Cortland Downtown Partnership said.

Geibel is also the publisher and editor of the Cortland Standard.

The event started in 2000 to celebrate the city’s centennial anniversary. The only year the event didn’t happen was in 2012, due to a lack of funding.

The Downtown Partnership hosted it from 2013 to 2018. In its last year hosting, the Partnership was awarded $5,000 in occupancy tax funding by the Cortland County Legislature to help cover expenses, which was intended to be zero, and with sponsorship help from McNeil and Co. Inc.

Bennett, who is a member of the Downtown Partnership, entered a bid to host the event by himself in September after the Partnership decided not to host this year, he said. He beat out three other bids from potential hosts, including the Cortland County Cultural Council and the Cortland Standard.

Bennett’s decision to host stems from his connection to the city.

“This is an area I care about. I went to college here, moved away and came back,” he said.

He hopes people attending get three things out of the event:

“One, they had a good time; two, they meet somebody new; and three, I hope every person who, whatever resolution they’re seeking, they can find it in 2020,” Bennett said. “I hope they can put the work in and see it come to fruition.”