Leadership failure: City of Houston cancels annual New Year’s event

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For a city whose leaders are constantly touting all of the things they are doing to make Houston “world class,” we sure do seem to have a lot of trouble putting on an annual New Year’s Eve event.

Recall some years back when city leaders were just giddy to start a tradition of a 9-foot-by-9-foot rising star reaching its peak at midnight on New Year’s Eve? It was all SO exciting, as this excerpt from KHOU’s reporting makes clear:

City officials hope to someday rival the New York City ball drop, but for this year at least, the symbol stays small, and if all goes well, rises to the occasion without a hitch.

“A ball drop, it’s been done. A peach pit, it’s been done. We want something special. No one has a rising star except us,” [John] Sotos said.

It wasn’t meant to be. The next year, as Councilmember Carol Alvarado explained, we were just too “event-ed out” to plan the annual event.

But Houston can be stubborn. We were ready to have another go at an annual event in 2010/11, with the strangely named Gloworama celebration at Discovery Green.

CultureMap’s Clifford Pugh, a graduate of the Houston Chronicle School of Rah-Rah Journalism, described the new event exuberantly:

Look out Times Square.

A new New Year’s Eve tradition was born in Houston Friday night — and it has all the promise of becoming a major yearly attraction.


Discovery Green was packed with well-behaved revelers, including couples pushing strollers, groups of teenagers and city officials, including Mayor Annise Parker and her family.


“I think this will be the go-to event for New Year’s Eve in Houston,” Parker said. “It’s quintessential Houston. Art cars and Houston go together. It makes for a wonderful family-friendly event.”

The 2010/11 event carried over to 2011/12, and the silly name was replaced by “New Year’s Eve Live.” Since Houston leaders apparently never learn, it was also designated an annual event:

Last year’s Gloworama has transformed into New Year’s Eve Live, the second annual illuminated, power-packed celebration at the City of Houston’s George R. Brown (GRB) Convention Center, 1001 Avenida de las Americas, Houston 77010. In addition to the spectacular light parade, new features have been added to the party, including an extended parade route, a bigger fireworks display and food and beverage stands.

Last year, it seemed like the City of Houston was finally getting the hang of this annual-event stuff, as it held the city’s third New Year’s celebration in a row (and second at Discovery Green).

Alas, it was not to be. New York City can relax. The annual Discovery Green New Year’s celebration won’t be threatening the Times Square celebration this year.


The inability* of city leaders to raise adequate funds for the annual New Year’s celebration has led to its cancellation, according to the Chronicle:

New Year’s Eve Live, the city’s official holiday event at Discovery Green, has been canceled.

The decision comes as city leaders are preparing for the Annual Thanksgiving Day Parade, taking it over from the Houston Festival Foundation, which announced in August that it was bowing out. Foundation organizers cited funding problems.

Susan Christian, director of the Mayor’s Office of Special Events, said a lack of funding for the New Year’s Eve event forced its cancellation. She added that the city’s recent takeover of the parade did not lead to the cancellation.

The city began the family-oriented New Year’s celebration in 2010. Last year’s event, which included live music and fireworks, cost more than half a million dollars to produce, Christian said.

The event could return, she said, if the city could find corporate sponsors.

Well, at least nobody suggested we were “event-ed out” this time.

The leadership failure leaves us somewhat short of world class, though.

* Mayor Annise Parker did not seem to have any problem raising funds for re-election, however. Priorities!

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Kevin Whited is co-founder and publisher of blogHOUSTON. Follow him on twitter: @PubliusTX