The Kinsmen Memorial and Colin Campbell Community Arenas were overflowing with skaters Saturday evening at the town's annual New Year's Eve Family Skate.
Frank Cowan Company sponsored the free skating from 7-9 p.m. and Chrissy's Catering sponsored free hot chocolate for an estimated 300 people.
"We probably had about 150 on each rink," said Rick Cox, Director of Recreation, Culture and Parks in Tillsonburg, who was skating on the Community Arena side. "I don't know exactly... there was a lot of people. Maybe not at the same time, but definitely that many in the two hours."
Organizers had originally planned for skating on one ice pad, but the Memorial rink filled within the first 10 minutes so they quickly opened the Community Arena.
"It's just the right amount of time and time slot. I like it on the other side where we turn down the lights a little bit and do a little decorating.
"We certainly appreciate the (town) staff coming out to work on New Year's Eve," said Cox, noting there was also a wedding in the Lions Auditorium that night. "It's an actual wedding. It's not a Buck and Doe or party - it's the ceremony and everything."
Last year's Family Skate was followed by fireworks in Memorial Park, but there were no fireworks this year.
"A couple of years ago the community did some fundraising for fireworks and it was cancelled (in 2014) because of the weather."
Those fireworks were returned unused and the money was used for fireworks on Dec. 31, 2015.
"So essentially we had a 'double up.' We had fireworks on Canada Day, and the community money for the following New Year's - last year."
The town budgeted the same annual amount for Canada Day fireworks in 2016, but not New Year's Eve.
"It's about allocating resources," said Cox. "The focus this year was to make sure Canada Day had a solid fireworks show, and we didn't have the extra cash. Council had to make some choices and that was one of them. And that's okay - that's what they're supposed to do."
For many years, Tillsonburg's Dec. 31st fireworks were organized by the Rotary Club of Tillsonburg at the Rotary Clock Tower on Broadway. After a one-year hiatus, the BIA and Town of Tillsonburg set up a committee to bring back the fireworks in 2013 featuring horse drawn wagon rides, free refreshments, music, family fun zone and a new Golf Ball Drop - a twist on the traditional Clock Tower countdown. Financial support and donations from the community were provided by local businesses and service clubs including the Rotary Club, King Hiram Masonic Lodge No. 78, Kiwanis Club of Tillsonburg, Lions Club of Tillsonburg, Knights of Columbus - Council 3212, and anonymous donations, for a $4,000 fireworks show.
When the BIA withdrew, Cox planned to keep New Year's Eve fireworks alive in 2014, but changed the venue to Memorial Park.
"It's a little bit safer here," he said, "and more family friendly. The people are here skating, and they can hang around for a half hour, have some hot chocolate, and go outside and see the fireworks."
The idea of bringing back New Year's Eve fireworks is appealing, he said, but it would require support from the community.
"I'm hoping that for the sesquicentennial wrap up there will be enough people who say, 'you know what, we missed it last year... we want to make it happen this year.'"
But at the same time, he understands the community is already asked for a lot of support.
"And there are more important needs in the community than fireworks."
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