New Year's Eve Chicago: Fireworks, party and safety preparations underway

Maher Kawash Image
Sunday, December 31, 2023
New Year's Eve parties kick off in Chicago
HighSight's scholarship program receives all the proceeds at a Saturday night event, and it directly benefits students and families in need.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The city of Chicago is putting the finishing touches on its New Year's Eve preparations, from safety plans to fireworks celebrations.

Chicago police say they are prepared not only for the New Year's celebrations, but also a Bears game Sunday and a planned protest downtown.

Deputy Chief John Hein, incident commander for downtown New Year's Eve celebrations, said there is an adequate number of officers who will be deployed in and around the loop. He said only some officers had their days off canceled, depending on their assigned unit, but were notified ahead of time.

Officers will also patrol the public transit system while violence interrupters are already at work in neighborhoods to make sure revelers enjoy the holiday safely.

SEE MORE: ABC7 presents 'Countdown Chicago 2024,' airing Dec. 31

"We ask everyone, please, ensure that you have a safe night and if you're going to celebrate, do that responsibly. And, make sure you have a designated driver, if need be," Hein said.

He also encouraged people to take advantage of free CTA rides from 10 p.m. Sunday to 4 a.m. New Year's Day.

Get your balloons, party hats, party horns and bottles of bubbly ready - it's almost time ot celebrate New Year's!

A dazzling fireworks display will cast its glow across the lakefront to welcome 2024. The best views to catch the show are along the Chicago River or at Navy Pier. The city will close six bridges along Wacker Drive so people can enjoy the midnight display.

Some revelers traveled to Chicago specifically to ring in the new year, like Jamecia May and Nile McIntosh, who are visiting the city from Atlanta.

"My birthday is New Year's Eve," May said. "We wanted to come and experience the snow. It's the same temperature as Atlanta, unfortunately."

Snow or not, what better place is there to enter into 2024 than the Windy City?

"The fireworks and good food, that's why we came to Chicago," McIntosh said.

But before all the fun begins is much preparation. Doolin's party supply store blew up thousands - truly, thousands - of balloons that will decorate dozens of Chicago restaurants and New Year's Eve parties.

"We get it all done, but we work hard to make sure it's lined up ahead of time and planned. We have enough tanks, and enough latex, and enough manpower," Christine Doolin said.

Customers filled the store Friday, getting the goods for their own celebrations early.

"Got a little banner, got some hats, got some noisemakers, classic New Year's Eve stuff," said Stella Brown.

"I think we got some flutes over there. We got a party pack, filled with hats and some horns. Just to make some noise to bring in the New Year," said Adonis Holmes.

And who can forget champagne? Binny's in River North bustled with people like Cheryl Grant, dealt with the difficult task of grabbing the booze for their New Year's Eve celebrations.

"We are stocking up on the essentials. We do the fun stuff, the adult beverages, as I like to say. And they do the food, so it all works out perfectly," she said.

Meanwhile, a fancy night of celebration at the Old Post Office kicked off New Year celebrations in Chicago on Saturday night.

"It's absolutely gorgeous here. The people are fantastic," said John Esmael. "The food and drinks are wonderful."

The event brought in more than 1,000 people for a good cause as all proceeds benefit HighSight's scholarship program.

"Our students are primarily from South and West. Funds from this event and others throughout the year go to help our kids at private schools across the city," said Jameson Taylor, president of the directing board of governors.

Those scholarships have been helping students and families in need all across the city for nearly 30 years now.

The program takes in applications from eight grade students across Chicago, then awards partial four year scholarships based on the need and character of each student.

ABC7 talked to one of the volunteers who set everything up for Saturday night, and he happens to be a former recipient of those scholarships.

"They support them through high school with scholarships and mentoring, so the event is to help fund those scholarships and help with all that," said Matthew Klich.

The ballroom was lit up on Saturday night as donations are gathered for those kids, who are primarily eighth-graders seeking assistance for high school. That's something folks are happy to help with.

"Oh, we think it's fantastic. Anything we can help with the kids and city, other places. Whatever we can do to help enrich their lives," Esmael said.