New Year’s Eve revelers in Old Sacramento can expect to see more police in entertainment venues to help prevent disturbances that could interfere with this year’s Sky Spectacular.
The Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau promises to dazzle visitors with two free fireworks concerts, at 9 p.m. and midnight, along the historic waterfront. This year’s event will feature multiple launch sites for the fireworks, as well as new choreography elements and high-energy live music. The 9 p.m. show will last about 15 minutes and the midnight display, about 10 minutes, the reverse of previous years, when the longer show was scheduled for midnight.
“We made this change because the 9 p.m. crowds are significantly bigger than the midnight crowds,” said Mike Testa, senior vice president of the Convention & Visitors Bureau. “This didn’t always used to be the case, but we saw that pattern change a few years back and wanted to make sure the longer show was being presented to the largest crowd.”
The changes are part of the evolution of the 14-year-old event, he said. The bureau’s new events director, working with a new fireworks company, has brought new ideas, including the multiple launch sites, Testa said.
Approximately 8,000 fireworks will light up the sky over the course of the evening. They will be launched from three sites in West Sacramento and one off the Tower Bridge for the 9 p.m. show.
“Essentially, there are launch sites on either side of the Ziggurat building, a ‘fanfare’ from the River Walk in West Sacramento and a waterfall effect off the Tower Bridge,” Testa said.
When it comes to viewing the fireworks, he said, “Anywhere in Old Sacramento should be a great spot, from Front Street to the boardwalk and to the River Walk in front of the Embassy Suites Hotel.”
New Year’s Eve festivities in Old Sacramento were shut down early last year when a spilled drink in a bar triggered shootings that left two people dead and three others injured. The gunbattle broke out about 9:40 p.m. inside the Sports Corner Cafe at K and Second streets. With a police investigation underway at the shooting scene, the midnight fireworks show was canceled.
Police and event organizers have consistently described the shooting as an isolated incident that was quickly contained. Police, including officers on horseback, were praised for their rapid response.
But Sacramento police spokeswoman Officer Michele Gigante said police will be more visible this year.
Organizers say more than 100 security personnel will be assigned to the event, provided by the Sacramento and West Sacramento police departments, the California Highway Patrol and private security firms.
“Officers will be doing a few more business checks and walking through some of the businesses. … We will have a very, very strong, visible presence,” Gigante said.
Alcoholic beverages are allowed only at eateries. Testa said the event will not include beer garden venues, and open containers are not allowed on the street.
Gigante said there will be zero tolerance for disruptive behavior.
Christopher McSwain, executive director of the Old Sacramento Business Association, said businesses with liquor and entertainment licenses are required to have private security personnel on duty, but he declined to discuss specific safety measures.
“The thing about security is to have it in place but not to talk about it too much,” he said.
The New Year’s Eve celebration draws two separate crowds, McSwain said. The early crowd is more family oriented. Those who come later typically are adults, or families that like to stay up till midnight, McSwain said.
“We fill up the garages twice,” he said, noting that an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 people typically attend the festivities.
New Year’s Eve is a big night for Old Sacramento businesses, with many restaurants staying open late to serve celebrants. About 95 percent of the businesses are locally owned, McSwain said, and “we look to put on our best show.”
The Theatre of Lights will wrap up its holiday run with two final, free performances at 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. on K Street between Front and Second streets.
Entertainment also will be provided by the Radio Disney Road Crew; Natomas Drumline; Nashville, Tenn., recording artist McKenna Faith; and Joy & Madness, a Northern California-based funk and soul band.
Prepaid parking will be available in all Old Sacramento and downtown Sacramento parking garages. Old Sacramento visitors are allowed to bring blankets and fold-up chairs for the fireworks shows.
To accommodate the evening activities, the Tower Bridge will be closed to vehicle traffic from 7:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. It also will be closed to pedestrian traffic for 30 minutes leading up to and after each of the two fireworks shows.
“We feel this December was good for us,” McSwain said, noting that the relatively mild weather has been conducive to holiday outings and shopping in Old Sacramento. “We hope that carries through to the new year.”