A shimmering ball drop, live music, festive surroundings, and lots of cheering about a brand new year. If that sounds like your typical New Year’s Eve celebration, well, it is - but it’s also a New Year’s celebration that’s a little different than the usual.
Now in its seventh year, the Crooked Tree Arts Center (CTAC) New Year’s Celebration was an idea originally started by Petoskey Downtown’s Becky Goodman, who wanted a distinctive New Year’s Eve event for the Petoskey area.
CTAC decided to run with the idea, and also made the event alcohol-free - which means that it’s one of the few alcohol-free New Year parties in the region that isn’t “just for kids.”
FIRST NIGHT FUN
“It’s incredibly important to us that this be an alternative to the traditional New Year’s Eve events,” says Valerie St. Pierre Smith, CTAC’s program director. “Focusing on having a great time and packing an insane amount of music, art, crafts, classes, and purely fun activities into the evening is party enough.”
CTAC’s New Year is modeled after Boston’s First Night, which started in Beantown in the 1970s, also an alcohol-free event that blends arts and culture to help ring in the new year.
“We were intrigued by the ‘First Night’ concept, but wanted to make it our own,” Smith says.
Cindy McSurely, who coordinates the CTAC event, moved to the area with her family two years ago, and says that before she worked at the arts center, she had a plethora of people telling her that the CTAC
New Year’s party was a must-attend.
“And they were right,” she says. “Having it be an all-ages event is an important distinction because we make an effort to have broad ranging activities that many can enjoy.”
These include a main stage that changes musical acts every 30-45 minutes, after which those performers do an additional acoustic set in one of CTAC’s art galleries.
“This is one of my favorites,” Smith says. “You can see a performer or band high-energy on the main stage, and then follow them to the acoustic gallery for a totally different type of performance. That is if you aren’t glued to your seat because you can’t wait to see the next main stage performer.”
LISTEN, DANCE, AND CRAFT
In addition, the entire lower level of the Arts Center and the Carnegie building will be stuffed with classes from dance and music workshops to pottery and crafting opportunities, plus the popular return of the Old Time Family Dance as hosted by Blissfest Music Organization, which will help end the evening with a dance caller and live music.
“The upper level of the Carnegie will have a variety of artisans demonstrating, reading, storytelling, and more,” McSurely says. “And in another gallery, we’ll serve treats, pizza, alcohol-free beverages, and more all amid the backdrop of more music, poetry readings, and the wonderful hubbub of the event itself.”
Among the highlights for the 2013 event are a couple of crowd favorites returning after a hiatus: adult improv troupe Laugh and Disorder, and speed painter Martina Hahn.
“The Laugh and Disorder players are from all over the area, and recollect the comedy of ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’,” McSurely explains. “And Martina often cooks up something new for us - we can’t wait to see what new twist she has added for this year.”
And then there’s the music that is such a huge part of the celebration.
“This year will be rockin’ with performances that include Boyne River Remedy, Charlie Millard, and a couple of surprises that I can’t let out of the bag,” Smith smiles.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE
The “tickets” - actually admission buttons - for the CTAC New Year’s Eve Celebration are “one of my favorite things,” McSurely says.
Each year a call for entry is held, with the artist chosen from local Emmet/Charlevoix county students. The winner’s artwork is used for the event’s buttons, t-shirts, and marketing materials, and are something of a collector’s item.
“You’ll see a handful of guests each year wearing all the buttons from the previous years on the evening of the party,” McSurely points out.
A ball drop wraps up the night - CTAC’s drop changes up the time and gives everyone the chance to ring the New Year in, regardless of their other holiday plans.
“We have our own ‘Times Square’ on Division Street (in downtown Petoskey), where at 9 p.m. we drop our own New Year’s Eve ball,” Smith says.
Hosted by Moran Iron Works on the street, the New Year’s Eve ball was specially-built for the event by Tom Moran himself, and measures six feet in diameter with over 1,000 lights.
“The timing of the ball drop is perfect for adults who just want a night out, musicians who then have a later gig in an area establishment, and parents who maybe want a later dinner,” McSurely says. “The ‘Midnight at 9’ celebration part of our event is really growing.”
As is the CTAC New Year’s Celebration itself - the event has sold out the past three years in a row during the first hour of at-the-door ticket sales, and attendance is limited to 700 people at $7 each.
The Crooked Tree Arts Center New Year’s Celebration takes place on December 31st beginning at 5 p.m. at CTAC in downtown Petoskey. Buttoms can be purchased online at www.crookedtree.org, by calling 231-347-4337, or by stopping by CTAC or the Petoskey Chamber of Commerce.