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Dunedin may start year Scottish-style

First Night is coming to Dunedin, possibly with a Scottish flare.

The board of the Dunedin Chamber of Commerce voted this week to go ahead with the alcohol-free family festival that celebrates the beginning of the new year.

"It's all systems go," said Bob Bellavance, the chamber's executive vice president. "The public's response has been unbelievable, so positive."

Dunedin may adapt the celebration, which traditionally combines art, music, parades and other festivities, to mirror the Scottish hogmanay, Bellavance said.

Hogmanay is a Scottish New Year's Eve tradition that includes food, music, theater, fireworks and marching kilted bands.

Dunedin, which has its own pipe bands and an annual Highland Games, was named by two Scottish settlers in honor of their homeland.

The chamber's executive vice president said that the city's noon Rotary Club has agreed to co-sponsor First Night, and he hopes the morning Rotary will sign on, too.

Now, Bellavance said, all the detail work can kick in.

The chamber has to get permits from the city. It will look for about a dozen venues downtown for entertainment. The committee hopes to have fireworks over the water at midnight, Bellavance said.

The festivities likely would be spread over Main Street, Douglas Avenue and Scotland Street, Bellavance said. The organizers are looking into a shuttle service to move partygoers among the venues.

First Night attendees buy buttons, usually $8 to $10 in other cities, that allow admission to all the events.

First Night began in Boston in 1976, the finale to the Bicentennial celebration. The festivals now stretch from coast to coast in 142 cities in the United States and 14 in Canada.

Tampa joined the movement in 1992 and St. Petersburg in 1993. Atlantic Beach and Pensacola are the only other Florida cities with a First Night festival.

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