Fireworks will light the sky over the Inner Harbor on New Year's Eve after a donation from The Baltimore Sun allowed organizers to meet their fundraising goal for putting on the annual display.

The Sun will serve as presenting sponsor for the 34-year-old event, which seemed in peril after the previous sponsor, Ports America Chesapeake, declined to renew its contract this spring.


"We're so excited to have this generous grant … since it allows the region to reap the economic advantages while preserving the tradition for local residents," Bill Gilmore, executive director of the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts, said in a statement.

Sun officials noted that the event will lead into the newspaper's 175th year of publishing.

"To so many local residents, the Inner Harbor fireworks define New Year's Eve," said Judith Berman, the Baltimore Sun Media Group's senior vice president of marketing. "We knew we had to figure out a way to make the event happen. And because the fireworks occur at the exact moment our 175th anniversary year begins, becoming the presenting sponsor was a natural fit for us."

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake lauded the city's businesses for preserving the fireworks display. An array of downtown hotels and companies joined The Sun as sponsors.

"I'm pleased that Baltimore's business community stepped up to help continue the tradition of having fireworks at the Inner Harbor on New Year's Eve," the mayor said in a statement. "It is especially fitting that The Baltimore Sun kicks off its 175th year of publishing in 2012 with this gift to the city. Partnering with the private sector is vital to big city events and to a strong economy."

Donations came in sluggishly until last month, when the nonprofit Office of Promotion & the Arts issued a plea for help.

After a $10,000 contribution from the Ritz-Carlton Residences in Federal Hill and a $7,500 contribution from the Hilton Baltimore, organizers were confident enough to sign contracts for barges and tugboats but not to order fireworks shells.

Sun officials declined to say how much the media company donated.

Other sponsors include WJZ-TV 13; General Growth Properties Inc.; Willard Hackerman of Whiting-Turner; Visit Baltimore; and several other hotels.

Organizers said they raised a total of $116,000 to put on the entire fireworks display.

The fireworks event attracts as many as 100,000 visitors, according to organizers, and a 2009 study by research firm Forward Analytics found that it had a $6.9 million economic impact on the city.

"It's a tradition people didn't want to see let go," Gilmore said in an interview. "But at the same time, it drives business."

In seeking donations to save the event, organizers targeted downtown hotels and other businesses that benefit from the influx of visitors. Gilmore said they will likely continue to seek donations from such businesses in future years to keep the event going.

"I think we will try to communicate further in advance," he said, "so it isn't such a last-minute appeal."