Counting down to a brand new year

Tens of thousands expected for First Night Raleigh

ablythe@newsobserver.comDecember 30, 2012 

  • THE COUNTDOWN BEGINS The family fun starts at 2 p.m. at the museums of History and Natural Sciences, 11 West Jones Street, with “Tots Under the Big Top!” on the fourth floor of the Nature Research Center. Crafts, interactive music and performances await the wee ones. Throughout the day and into the night, celebrators may enjoy fashion shows, interactive art installations and games. Headlining the live music is Durham-based Delta Rae on the main stage on City Plaza followed, of course, by the Acorn Drop and fireworks at midnight, best enjoyed from the top of the 90-foot Ferris wheel. Admission passes are $9; all-day passes are $12 for adults and $10 for kids 6-12. The full schedule and tickets are available at www.firstnightraleigh.com

As years come to a close, jumbles of numbers often tumble through our minds.

There are the typical, such as the number of resolutions we want to make, and how precise or vague they must be to last a full 365 days.

There are the practical, such as how many cups of liquid to throw in pots full of greens and black-eyed peas – the South’s traditional fare for the festivities – to ensure wealth, health and luck through the coming year.

Rare to this year, though, as 2012 gives way to 2013, is the number 13. It’s this figure that instills fear in triskaidekaphobiacs and delight in the triskaidekaphiliacs, who have exuberance for baker’s dozens and anything else related to the often maligned number between 12 and 14.

Terri Dollar, the program director for First Night Raleigh, the City of Oaks’ indoor-outdoor New Year’s Eve party, has much bigger numbers on her mind as the countdown to midnight begins.

With 24 Raleigh blocks roped off and 35 venues ready to entertain, Dollar, a 15-year veteran of planning Raleigh’s biggest and best-attended end-of-the-year bash, is expecting at least 50,000 to 75,000 celebrators. On Sunday, as time marched on, she was going down a long checklist.

Workers spent much of the day constructing a Ferris wheel brought back by popular demand after its first appearance last year. They tested the Jumbodrop ride in the middle of Fayetteville Street, sending the banks of empty seats slowly up the multistory tower, then releasing them in a swift drop and a thud to the base.

Organizers checked and rechecked entertainment lists and, of course, made sure everything was in place for the giant Acorn Drop and midnight fireworks.

“It’s like throwing a gigantic party for 100,000 of your closest friends,” Dollar said. “We work hard every year to give people something that will really make them go, ‘Wow.’”

Odd tradition in mountains

As many throughout the Triangle made plans to bring the new year in with a wow, the tiny N.C. mountain community of Brasstown, a small burg about 361 miles west of Raleigh, was preparing for a new tradition.

A yearlong legal tussle that ended in Raleigh last month put an end to the New Year’s Eve possum drop that Clay Logan had been doing there for two decades.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sued, calling the event illegal and cruel to the live possum lowered in a Plexiglas cage at the stroke of midnight.

Even though the nocturnal, arboreal marsupial was released into the wild after the grand appearance, Fred Morrison, a senior administrative law judge, ruled in November that the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission lacked the authority to issue a special permit for keeping captive animals.

Despite the court ruling, Logan insists the drop will go on this year. There just won’t be a live possum in Clay’s Corner, the so-called Opossum Capital of the World.

What Logan plans to drop, though, has not been disclosed.

With an air of mystery hanging heavy, the countdown begins to see how Brasstown will do things by the numbers this year.

Blythe: 919-836-4948

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