January 2, 2009
Cold limits New Year’s crowd
About 1,000 people attend annual First Night celebration downtown
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Children blow their horns as they watch the ball drop on Main Street Wednesday night. Left to right are, Jacob Norton and sisters, Kaelyn, Ariana and Jenna Burda.
The cold, snowflake-filled air on Wednesday night had some bar- goers concerned that few people would show up for the First Night Celebration on Main Street.
Inside the Dark Horse tavern, Paul Sweger of Cortland was enjoying a night out with his wife, Michelle, and planning to stay out until at least 2 a.m.
“This is one night when we don’t have our little one with us,” Sweger said.
It was just after 11 p.m., and people in the Dark Horse still had plenty of room to move their arms and walk. Outside, there was no crowd, only people walking to bars or other destinations. The Swegers said the crowd downtown was not nearly as large as it had been the year before.
“Other than this year, it seemed like every year there were more and more people that showed up,” Sweger said.
He said that because of the single-digit temperatures, they would probably go outside just a couple of minutes before the ball drop.
“I don’t know if we’re gonna stay outside for the fireworks,” Sweger said. “It’s a little on the cold side for that. Usually that’s what we do.”
A crowd soon formed on Main Street. Lt. Jon Gesin of the city police said today that between 800 and 1,000 people attended the celebration, compared to about 5,000 people who attended last year.
Stan and Donna Nordin of Homer were standing with five of their six children in front of the Cortland Standard building, where the lit ball was hanging on cables outside a window above the fourth-floor.
“I’m glad they’re actually doing it tonight. It’s something to bring the family together,” Stan Nordin said.
The celebration was initially canceled for lack of funds until Jim and Sherry Foster, owners of Little Big Shots, a Homer-based fireworks company, offered to donate $3,000 worth of fireworks for the celebration.
“It breaks up the winter monotony,” Donna Nordin said of the New Year’s celebration.
Dressed in winter coats, hats and gloves, the seven family members huddled together for added warmth as they waited.
At about 11:30, disc jockey Cindy Ryan began playing upbeat songs from the Showmobile, a portable stage on a trailer that was parked in front of Bernard’s Clothiers at the corner of Main and Port Watson streets.
David Wood, 23, of Cortland, danced wildly in front of the stage to “Shout” by the Isley Brothers. Soon, he was joined by Emily Walsh, 19, of Cortland. The two locals, who attended Cortland High School together, were jumping up and down, tossing their arms in the air and kicking their legs.
Taking a break from dancing, Walsh said her father, former Cortland Mayor Ron Walsh, helped start the celebration in 2000, and she has attended it every year.
“It’s always fun to come back home for this,” Walsh, who is now a student at Hartwick College in Oneonta, said.
Then, Mayor Tom Gallagher walked onto the stage and thanked Little Big Shots for the fireworks. When he finished speaking, heads turned to the ball. It slowly descended on the cable to a window on the first floor.
The ball stopped, and its lights were turned off to mark the start of the new year. People cheered loudly, and some young couples stood lip-locked with one another in the street.
Red, white and blue confetti sent from machines outside of the Dark Horse sprinkled into the air, joining tiny snowflakes that were blowing through the blustery air.
Colorful fireworks exploded over CVS and the Star Bistro. They were sent from the former Rosen sight off south Main Street. As soon as the fireworks ended, people began to disperse, many going to Main Street bars, others back to their homes or some other warm place.
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