Second annual ball drop signals the start of 2013
Last year, Cheyenne hastily put together a New Year’s Eve celebration on the expansive plaza in front of the landmark railroad depot. The highlight was a Times Square-inspired ball drop. Despite last-minute organization and fierce winds, it was successful enough to result in an expanded version this year. I had to be there!
And so it was that my husband and I happily had our passports stamped as we crossed into Wyoming (just kidding!) and checked in to the Historic Plains Hotel. Being at the intersection of Interstates 25 and 80, there is no shortage of places to stay in Cheyenne. But the Plains Hotel was absolutely the best, because the celebration was just across the street in the beautifully restored Cheyenne Depot Museum and on the plaza in front of the landmark. Inside the great hall, a waiting room in the heyday of passenger rail traffic, were festively set tables, a generous buffet, good company and a celebratory and completely unpretentious mood. That is my idea of how to ring in a New Year.
We headed from the hotel to the Depot Museum for festive New Year’s Eve buffet dinner. Darren Rudloff, executive director of the Visit Cheyenne, had not only invited us to town in the first place but also invited us to join him, his wife Nicole who is marketing director for Cheyenne Frontier Days, two Bobs (one the civil engineer who was instrumental in the depot’s restaurant and the other who works for the city and, among many other things, enabled the ball drop to take place, and their wives. It was great to spend the evening with locals who had such large parts in making both the depot restoration happen and New Year’s Eve so bright.
After dinner, we bundled up for the real festivities outside – free to all. And all were there — families with little kids, groups of friends, canoodling couples and seniors. It was cold but wind-still, so being outside under the canopy of the night sky was wonderful. The Depot Plaza was brilliantly lit, rocked with a DJ selection, the mellow multi-generational crowd milled around (there’s no milling room in New York), followed the laser countdown on the depot tower and watched the lighted ball drop from a high crane. The countdown clock and the regular clock on the dept tower weren’t in sync, but everyone knew it was midnight when the ball reached the ground. Then, it was 2013. Happy New Year greetings, hugs, kisses and fireworks lighting the night sky. What a wonderful way to start a new year.
The dinner was the highlight of and a fundraiser for Lights On!, a local initiative to bring more traffic to downtown after sunset. It sure worked last night, with the plaza full and surely spillover elsewhere in the city. I’m all for that — in 2013 and always, because I think real towns with real histories and independent businesses trump indoor malls anytime. I don’t know where we’ll be 364 days from now, but I could happily spend another New Year’s Eve in Cheyenne.