A crowd of approximately 1,000 people watched as a large disco ball descended from above Town Center Antiques in Berlin late last Friday. As the glittery silver ball reached its destination near a clock on North Main Street, the giant crowd roared, welcoming the New Year with palpable excitement.
“It was incredible,” said Barb Stack, a Berlin business owner who instituted the town’s inaugural New Year’s Eve celebration. “It was much better than we ever anticipated. Everybody just had a ton of fun. We were just overwhelmed by the response.”
Organized by the town and the Berlin Chamber of Commerce, the Dec. 31 party was expected to draw a small crowd — only about 100 or 200, according to Michael Day, the town’s director of Community and Economic Development. Undoubtedly, organizers were surprised when hundreds of revelers gathered along Main Street and its side streets, sidewalks and on the porch and front yard of the Atlantic Hotel.
“It was unpredictable as to how many people would show up,” Day said. “There were some things we didn’t think about.”
For instance, Day said, the town should have arranged for portable toilets and for street vendors to sell food and coffee. He added that perhaps the deejay should have been asked to remind people to use the trashcans, or perhaps those trashcans should have been placed in the streets instead of up against buildings.
Day and others had also not anticipated that people would take confetti to the event. Two members of the Public Works Department cleaned it up hours later, but soon after the crowd headed home it was Day, Town Administrator Tony Carson and Stack, owner of Design Resources, assisted by several town residents who picked up the larger trash items such as beverage cups and cans on the street.
Carriage rides were scheduled to begin at 8:30 p.m., but approximately 30 people were in line 30 minutes earlier, so they began at 8 p.m.
The giant crowd was a pleasant surprise for Berlin businesses open that evening.The Atlantic Hotel had its own New Year’s Eve event in its ballroom, but people attending the outside ball-drop could buy a drink at a bar set up on the porch. The hotel also had free hot chocolate and cider for the revelers.
Every room at the hotel was booked, either as part of the special two-night package to go with the New Year’s Eve soiree or otherwise booked in advance.
“It was the best weekend the hotel has had since Mr. Fager took over,” said hotel employee Jude Robinson.
The Globe was so packed with people that owner Jen David instituted a “one in and one out” policy for the night. As one person left, another could enter. She did it, she said, “to make sure everybody was comfortable and that we could serve everybody.”
David was not only pleased with the business at The Globe, but the response to the town’s new event.
“For us, it was wonderful. And we were really, really happy to see locals as guests and attending the event,” she said.
Prior to the New Year’s Eve event, Tim Lawrence, director of the town’s Electric Utility, and lineman Fred Litchfield practiced a trial run for the ball drop on Thursday. Other advance preparations included building a device to swing the ball away from the building’s exterior, clearing snow from the streets and setting up the outdoor stage in front of Rayne’s Reef Luncheonette.
A meeting of town department heads will be held this week to discuss what would be needed to make next year’s event even better.