(Updated 1633 8/11/11) Record numbers turned out to enjoy Lancaster's Firework Spectacular on Saturday, 5th November - which perhaps contributed to some considerable disappointment about the management of event, noted in our review earlier this week ("Kettled on Quay Meadow: City Fireworks spark health and safety overkill").
The Council reports some 16,000 people (up 60 per cent on last year), made their way to the four free official viewing sites at Quay Meadow, Giant Axe, Williamson Park and Salt Ayre Sports Centre.
It's claimed last year's event brought almost half a million pounds to the local economy and it is anticipated this figure will be beaten this year with record numbers attending daytime events in the city centre, restaurants fully booked in advance and takeaway food outlets kept busy catering for the masses.
"Feedback from city centre retailers on the day's events has been very positive," says Paul Cusimano, Chairman of the Lancaster City Retail Group. "The town was very busy all day and there was a great atmosphere.
"Many businesses did very well, especially the food outlets, as visitors and locals arrived early to join in the celebrations leading up to the firework display."
The programme of daytime activities was well attended with more than 180 people taking part in the Pendle Witches Guided Walks from as far away as Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The series of lantern making workshops at Lancaster City Museum were fully booked with many of the children taking part in the lantern procession through town during the evening. Storytelling activities also proved popular at Williamson Park and the Maritime Museum.
Lancaster Visitor Information Centre reported Saturday being the busiest day since it moved to The Storey in 2009 showing an increase in people calling into the centre up by 57% on last year.
The success of the event saw unprecedented numbers and a last minute flood of visitors to St. George's Quay during the evening to watch the firework display which forced a difficult but necessary decision to close Quay Meadow just before firing leaving last minute spectators disappointed. The treatment of spectators on the Meadow has attracted fierce criticism, with our review of the event prompting several to criticize the way it was managed.
Despite this, Coun Ron Sands, Cabinet member with responsibility for tourism and culture, argues says the rise in the number of spectators is tremendous news for the local economy .
"It proves what a massively popular event this is," he says. "Its popularity is incredible and means thousands of people were not only able to enjoy all Lancaster has to offer but also do so in safety.
Responding to concerns over the way the Quay crowds were handled, he says: "I would extend my commiserations to those last minute arrivals to the Quay but stress that with such enormous numbers, event organisers must be concerned for the safety of all.
"For no public incident to occur during such a large and difficult event to manage is something council staff are to be commended for.
"I would like to thank Lancaster businesses and residents, especially those along St George's Quay for their support. We will continue to work with emergency services and businesses to ensure the continued development of Lancaster's most highly attended event."
"There was an unprecedented attendance at this year’s festival" added Inspector Geoff Tagg. "The Quay Meadow site proved to be very popular and the council had to take the decision to close it to prevent over crowding. We fully supported the council throughout the evening and again the whole event appeared to be a great success.”
Neither have commented on the part closure of the Meadow itself, which meant viewing options for the Fireworks proved limited for many in the crowd.
Lancashire Chief Fire Officer, Peter Holland, said: "The spectacle and scale of the bonfire and firework events that we have been encouraging people to attend, such as Lancaster's, has been magnificent and has ensured that people have enjoyed Bonfire Night in safety. My thanks go to all those who have made that happen, not least to the people of Lancashire for their overwhelming support."
“It’s important to recognise that safety concerns remain a priority at events such as this and that appropriate measures are in place to minimise risk and prevent injuries occurring," feels Accident and Emergency matron at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary Graeme Nicholson. "As a result, this year’s event passed off without any incidents relating to the firework display coming through our Accident and Emergency Department.”
Update: Commenting on concerns from spectators, the City Council says they issued hundreds of evaluation forms on the night and will use that feedback to assist them in the development of the event.
"Regarding Quay Meadow - with any fireworks event of this scale, it is essential to have 'contingency areas' on viewing sites in case of emergencies if there is a need to quickly and safely move the crowd to a different part of the field," said a spokesperson.
"The cordon was extended, as had been planned, to increase the size of the spectating area, but an emergency space was still necessary for the reasons outlined."
Event sponsors were Hotfoot Design, Signs Express, BBC Radio Lancashire, the George and Dragon, Quite Simply French and Taylors Funfairs for their support.
• See also: Kettled on Quay Meadow: City Fireworks spark health and safety overkill