Ringing in a new year
Published: Sunday, January 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 1, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
Gainesville's Downtown Countdown brought in the new year for thousands of revelers Saturday night, but for two Ocala residents, it brought in even more.
Both diehard New Year's fans, Marilyn Bolz and Charlotte Gluschenko each showed up to the countdown just wanting to be a part of the celebration nearest to their homes. Then countdown organizer Laural DeWild introduced them to each other, and the pair became instant friends.
The two sat together in the countdown's reserved seating area, soaking in the loud music and cheering crowds in the buildup to 2006.
Bolz, who was wearing a bright blue lei, said she had called Gainesville's Chamber of Commerce to find out about the countdown and decided to go, even though she had no one to join her.
"I won't stay home on New Year's Eve. It's a night I think everybody should go out and have fun," she said, adding there was "nothing going on in Ocala."
Gluschenko felt the same way, and she also decided to attend the event alone after calling the Chamber of Commerce.
"It's the new year, and you should just start it off with a lot of fun," she said, adding that resolutions had nothing to do with it. In fact, she doesn't make resolutions, but rather considers each day an independent gift.
Both women arrived so early that they helped DeWild set up the 45 tables in the celebration's reserved seating. At $75 per-six-seat-table or $15 per-chair, the reserved seating sold out by 7:30 p.m.
DeWild, who has organized the event for the past six years, walked from the seating area to the band to the ice-skating rink throughout the night, making sure everything went smoothly. She said organizers were hoping for a crowd of 4,500 at the celebration.
Donning a sparkling tiara, DeWild said this New Year's is "bittersweet" for her, because it's the last she'll conduct for Gainesville's Department of Cultural Affairs before she leaves her job and moves to Ocala. She said she changed elements of the event every year, but felt that Saturday's event "finally had all the right ingredients."
The 2006 celebration was the first to have the performers' stage on SE 1st Avenue just east of the intersection with SE 1st Street, which gave spectators ample room to stand and watch bands including Huge Richard and Ezee. It was also the first year revelers could buy alcohol and carry it with them throughout the entire two-block celebration area.
Gainesville High School sophomores Karen Aplin and Malorie Henderson, both 16, wandered through the celebration arm in arm, watching the crowds. Dressed in green dresses, the teens had gone to dinner with friends at Harry's Seafood Restaurant, and they next planned to go to a party.
Aplin said she'll look back at 2005 years from now and remember it for the high gas prices and for the fun she had in her second year of high school.
"It was a really good year," she said, as 2006 drew near.
Tiffany Pakkala can be reached at (352) 338-3111 or email@example.com.
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