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Thousands welcome 2012 as acorn drops on City of Oaks

Posted December 31, 2011
Updated January 1, 2012

— Thousands of New Year's Eve revelers gathered in downtown Raleigh Saturday evening to watch an acorn descend on the City of Oaks to welcome 2012.

The 1,200-pound steel acorn, illuminated with lights on the clear, warm night, dropped at midnight, marking the end of 2011 and the 21st annual First Night Raleigh.

The First Night event kicked off long before the countdown to midnight as partiers enjoyed 20 blocks of live music, dance, comedy, spoken word and art installations. Giant puppets and people paraded through the streets, many in costume, while the Helping Hand Mission Band gave them some rhythm during the People's Procession.

First Night First Night 2011

"I feel like we're all in camaraderie, all celebrating the same thing," said participant Lora Benz. "This is so wonderful, because everyone is enjoying themselves."

In keeping with this year's French theme, a 90-foot Ferris wheel on Fayetteville Street brought some of the magic of the La Grande Roue of Paris to the streets of Raleigh. 

People's Procession marches Raleigh toward 2012 People's Procession marches Raleigh toward 2012

Thanks to the weather and festive attractions, event sponsor Artsplosure expected a record turnout this year.

The family-friendly event has something for all ages. Children said hello to 2012 early at a pre-midnight celebration at Bicentennial Plaza on Edenton Street.

Courtney Crowder brought his children out for the fun, which included accordion music, face painting and hula hooping. Youngsters even got their own version of the acorn drop at 7 p.m.

"This is just an incredible opportunity to get out with family and friends and just enjoy the city, enjoy all these activities," he said. "It's pretty incredible just to be able to come out and have fun this way."

Amber Eaton was happy to do some New Year's celebrating with family members whose bedtime comes long before midnight.

Kids at First Night New Year comes early for children at First Night

"It's great to have time to be able to spend with our family and do something fun, especially the little ones," she said. "Don't want to leave them out on such an important start to the New Year."

In keeping with tradition, children at First Night were quick to share their New Year's resolutions.

Natalie Alexander pledges to go fishing more in 2012.

"I just got a fishing pole," she said.

The acorn in Raleigh wasn't the only thing going down – or up, for that matter – in North Carolina for New Year's Eve. Celebrators in Mount Olive watched a pickle drop to ring in 2012, a flea dropped in the Cumberland County town of Eastover and a dogwood blossom rose for the occasion in Fayetteville.

Once the revelers were done, Raleigh city workers moved in to clean up after the event so Fayetteville Street could reopen for traffic Sunday morning.


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