FEARS THAT NEW YEAR PARTY MAY BE THE LAST

ORGANISERS of Stonehaven's Hogmanay party in the Market Square fear this year's event will be the last - unless new committee members come forward.

Open Air in the Square is staged by the Stonehaven Hogmanay Festival Committee, a group of volunteers, who lay on the music, funfair, bar and food stalls needed to transform the town centre car park into a New Year party venue.

They also provide the fireworks display from the Bervie Braes that marks the end of the fireballs procession along the High Street.

All of this is paid for by sponsorship and by the sale of a fundraising calendar, which is currently in the shops.

Open Air in the Square was first run by the town's community council, who wanted to give youngsters a special event to mark the millennium.

But the community council decided to step down from the task five years ago, and a group of locals came forward to keep the popular party going.

But over the years, the numbers on the committee have dwindled, leaving just a team of three, who all intend to resign after they have helped the town bring in 2008.

George Reid told the Leader: "We have all really enjoyed doing Open Air in the Square but, to be honest, after five years, we all want a break.

"Ideally we need to find people willing to take over the event now, so that they can shadow us for this year.

"If no-one comes forward, then the harsh reality is Open Air in the Square will just stop happening, which would be a shame as hundreds of people enjoy it."

Mr Reid added the arrangements for Open Air in the Square were now quite straightforward as most companies and agencies involved were familiar with the event, which has the support of Grampian Police and Aberdeenshire Council.

David Fleming, Chairman of Stonehaven and District Community Council said he strongly supported the appeal for help

"Open Air in the Square has provided a fantastic facility for youngsters – of all ages – in Stonehaven. The existing committee have done a marvellous job in creating just the right atmosphere to celebrate Hogmanay."

"Open Air in the Square has now become, along with the Fireballs ceremony, an established part of New Year in Stonehaven, and attracts many people into Stonehaven Town Centre as midnight approaches.

"It would be a great pity if it were to fade away. I am sure there are people who are willing to give a few hours just once a year to keep this going."

"I know that these festivities have the very visible support of Grampian Police and Aberdeenshire Council, since they create a very family-friendly atmosphere that is both safe and well managed – and free. We will be discussing the situation at our next meeting to see more what the Community Council can do to support the event."

Sgt Grant Wallace of Grampian Police said: "The local police work closely with the organisers to ensure those attending the event are provided with a safe environment where they can enjoy themselves. It would be a great pity for the town if this event were to end due to lack of support."

Anyone interested in assisting with the running of Open Air in the Square is asked to contact the Stonehaven Hogmanay Festival Committee secretary on 01569 760358.