Shillong has broken almost a decade-long deadlock this New Year. For the first time in years, the Pine City hosted a festival that ended not before the dawn of January 1. The Midnight Festival organised by the state Art and Culture department reminded old timers the midnight revelry before the troubled days of 1990’s in the city.
“Localities in Shillong used to hold New Year functions till past midnight, but many have stopped since insurgency picked momentum in the capital city,” said Michael Syiem, who was busy with his ‘midnight swim’ when revellers welcomed 2015 at Khyndailad. Syiem’s Forever Young group started the ‘midnight swim’ 18 years ago.
Around six to eight thousand revellers, both local residents and tourists, had most of the night-long function in the heart of the city despite the bone-chilling cold.
The Meghalaya Tourism Development Forum (MTDF) had organised New Year festivals with government support for a couple of years till around seven years ago.
“The government is trying to revive the festival and tap tourism potentials of the state further by organising such festivals,” said Sanjay Goyal, deputy commissioner of East Khasi Hills district.
Lauding the public for making the even successful while not letting any untoward incident happen, the DC said, “The chief minister is very much keen on such events which can contribute to tourism as well as boost the state’s image,” he said.
He also informed that the government is planning to publicise such events outside so that they become additional attraction for tourists to spend Christmas-to-New Year in Shillong.
There were a good number of tourists coming from neighbouring Assam to witness the festival.
“I am on a vacation and happened to be here today. This has inspired me to think of coming here next year too,” said one Jiten Deka from Guwahati.
(Published in The Meghalaya Guardian on January 2, 2015)