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No more New Year’s ball drop
Downtown Association looking for alternatives; First Friday cut to seven events; no foul play found in jail death
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Ever since the dawning of the year 2000, Kokomo has celebrated the arrival of the new year with a ceremonial ball drop in downtown. The pandemic knocked the event out of commission in 2020-21, and now it appears to be a permanent death to the tradition.
According to Kokomo Downtown Association Director Susan Alexander, the New Year’s ball drop is now a thing of the past as the organization seeks new ways to bring the community together.
“It is not going to be happening this year,” said Alexander. “The last couple years we haven’t had it, and we’ve found ways to highlight the (Kokomo High School) Technokats in a separate way. The Downtown Association and the Alliance made the decision this year to look for other ways to be more impactful in the community through other events and initiatives.
“Also, the ball isn’t fully functional, and the Technokats had issues with the event being on a holiday, making it difficult for them. Really there are multiple reasons.”
The New Year’s event began 22 years ago, with the ceremonial ball descending from the top of the Armstrong Landon building at the intersection of Main and Sycamore streets – the center of the city. Fireworks were launched from atop the Howard County Courthouse, and the City of Kokomo rolled out its portable stage to feature live music.
The successive years followed a similar formula, but the crowd of thousands seen at the outset dwindled over time and fluctuated with the weather. The downtown association now is searching for alternatives.
“This event took place for more than 20 years, but we were only impacting a small number of people in our community for about 30 minutes on a very cold night,” said Alexander. “We are looking for ideas for a more impactful initiative for the community.
“We are looking for options. We want to focus on business development. We did our Creative Culinary Entrepreneur initiative this past year. I would love to see us do more things like that. We are looking into developing a “front window” initiative. We saw some success when we brought in artists and displayed their work in one of the primary windows downtown. Not only did it add interest in downtown, it also gave them more exposure. We would like to do something more along those lines.”
First Friday shrinks
The decision comes at the same time that the association has chosen to limit another downtown tradition – First Friday. The once-monthly event will be cut almost in half, beginning in 2023, with the cold weather months being excluded.
“We want to play to our strengths with that event,”: said Alexander. “We get more participation from the public after those first three cold months. And with our December event, we really don’t want to compete with the city’s holiday parade.
“Kokomo has a lot going on. We want to make sure we are supporting everything and filling in where necessary.”
First Friday will take place seven times in 2023, beginning in April and ending in November. July’s event is supplanted by the Haynes-Apperson Festival. The downtown association is branding First Friday as an “arts-based, open house tour of beautiful downtown Kokomo.”
Each month features a different theme, and downtown businesses are encouraged to offer discounts and activities tied to the theme. As usual, live music, public art, and various activities will be included as part of each event.
Following are the dates and themes for the 2023 First Friday events, as provided by the Kokomo Downtown Association:
April 7 – Go Green
Take in all the beauty of downtown Kokomo and celebrate our local natural environment!
May 5 – Art Walk
Explore the many art opportunities throughout downtown. Walk by, create and enjoy Kokomo’s art scene.
June 2 – Strawberry Fest
Mark the start of summer with a refreshing strawberry shortcake dessert! Day-long event includes strawberry-related vendors, Artsapalooza Art Market and more. Event is 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
August 4 – The Great Kokomo Treasure Hunt
Search for treasure around downtown with a chance to win great prizes from local businesses.
September 1 – Artsapalooza
Experience art everywhere! Try it, hear it and appreciate it! Don’t miss the opening of the 10th annual Artist Alley exhibit. Also, Hawgin’ the Block for Bridges Outreach.
October 6 - Masquerade
Dress up in your favorite costume and enjoy trick-or-treating throughout downtown!
November 3 – Shop & Stroll
Head downtown for a night of shopping and open houses ahead of the holiday season.
Coroner says no foul play in jail death
The Howard County Coroner’s Office has ruled the manner of death of a jail inmate due to natural causes. On Dec. 22, Howard County Coroner Steven Seele released the findings concerning the death of Rick Bartel.
On Fri., Oct. 28, at approximately 11:30 a.m., 51-year-old Rick Allen Bartel was found unresponsive in his jail cell. Immediate medical attention was sought, and Bartel was transported emergent to Ascension St. Vincent Hospital in Kokomo. He was later pronounced deceased in the emergency department at 1:02 p.m.
An autopsy including toxicology testing was conducted under the direction of the coroner by a forensic pathologist. The cause of death has been determined to be the result of bilateral pulmonary emboli due to deep vein thrombosis.
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