New year welcomed with traditional trappings


Published: Saturday, January 2, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 2, 2010 at 12:12 a.m.

At Juniors Restaurant in Gainesville, the New Year's Day menu was a foregone conclusion.

It's a Southern tradition to eat black-eyed peas on New Year's, which is considered good luck. The soul-food restaurant serves the dish throughout the year but made a special holiday version by substituting hog maws, or pig stomach, for the typical ham hocks, Juniors owner Amos Smith said.

"I've been eating it all my life," he said. "There was no question what we were going to serve."

Across Gainesville, residents were celebrating New Year's traditions Friday. That meant eating traditional foods, making resolutions, watching football and - judging by the packed parking lots at Gainesville's theaters - watching movies.

At the Regal Royal Park theater, 10-year-old Daniel Smith and 9-year-old Alan Dai caught "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel." Smith's verdict: Good, but not as good as "The Blind Side," which he saw earlier.

Smith had a quick answer when asked about his New Year's resolution: He pledged to not get so upset when his 3-year-old brother acted up.

"I'm going to keep in my stress instead of getting all mad at him," Smith said.

As for Dai, he offered an exercise-related resolution like many others make - although his was a little different.

"Running two miles straight," he said.

In front on the theater, a LifeSouth Community Blood Center blood mobile was parked looking for donations. Team captain Ricky Allen said the response was disappointing, with just three individuals donating blood by late afternoon.

He said he hopes the economy turns around this year, because the recession has hurt donations. Downsizing has meant fewer employees at the businesses where the blood mobile parks and thus fewer donations, he said.

"Donations are down, that's for sure," he said.

The recession also has affected Steve Baker, 48. An electrician by trade, the lack of construction has dried up work. For the past month and a half, he's made roses from palm fronds and offered them at the corner of West University Avenue and 13th Street.

He doesn't sell the flowers in accordance with the law but accepts donations. He has made as much as $210 in one day, he said, and just this week had someone give him $80 for a dozen roses along with a note wishing him a happy new year.

He was joined at the corner on New Year's Day by Rick Shores, 52. Shores is known as "bird man" because of the parrot that's a regular presence on his shoulder.

Shores, who typically makes airbrush paintings for a living, also has been hampered by the difficult economy. He was helping Baker paint the flowers.

Baker said he doesn't have any resolutions for the new year, just a hope that the economy will improve in 2010.

"God willing, I hope," he said.

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