Berlin Approves 2021 Events Slate, Considers New Year’s Eve Fireworks

BERLIN – Though COVID-19 remains a concern, officials are planning ahead for next year with a full slate of events in Berlin.

On Monday, the town council approved the 2021 schedule of special events as recommended by Ivy Wells, the town’s economic and community development director.

“This is usually the time of year we approve them,” Mayor Gee Williams said. “We all know the 2020 events were devastated by the pandemic.”

Wells said the event schedule was essentially the same as it had been in years past but included a new event in October. That event, sponsored by the Berlin Heritage Foundation, will be the Berlin Homecoming Harvest, an event on the lawn of the Taylor House Museum.

Wells thanked event sponsors, who each year provide donations to support the town’s special events. In fiscal year 2019, donations and sponsorships amounted to more than $34,000. In fiscal year 2020, while some events were canceled, donations and sponsorships of close to $22,000 were received by the town.

Wells also briefly addressed the recent cancelation of the Berlin Christmas Parade.

“Sometimes we do have to adjust and adapt according to the times,” she said. “There were some very difficult decisions that were made… I want you all to know that we are always continually planning and working on alternative plans. To all the parade parents of the hundreds of kids that would have had to get together and rehearse and build floats that thanked us for making the decision early, you’re welcome. I just wanted to let you know that we do have some other things planned if the parade cancellation does stick.”

The council voted unanimously to approve the 2021 event schedule and voted 4-1, with Councilman Thom Gulyas opposed, to allow alcohol at six 2021 events — Berlin Jazz and Blues, Reggae Play Day, Small Town Throw Down, Fiddlers Convention, Oktoberfest and New Year’s Eve Ball Drop.

Councilman Zack Tyndall asked Wells if she was still exploring the concept of fireworks in town this coming New Year’s Eve since the ball drop was canceled along with the parade.

Wells said fireworks on the last night of 2020 were still possible but that there was a financial obligation. She said the town had paid a $5,000 deposit for a $10,000 show originally scheduled for July 3. Because that event was canceled due to COVID-19, the fireworks company agreed the deposit could go toward another show this year.

“They can shoot them off on New Year’s Eve but we’d have to pay an additional $5,000 for that,” she said.

Wells added that if the town did no show in 2020, $2,500 of the $5,000 deposit would rollover for the 2021 show but that the town would lose the other half of its deposit.

“Is there a way to roll back the size and scope of the show to fit within the $5,000 threshold?” Tyndall asked.

Wells said she would inquire and share the information with the council.

When contacted Tuesday, Wells confirmed that she’d spoken to the company and that the town’s only options were to pay another $5,000 for the show or to rollover half of the deposit toward next year’s event.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.