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Acorn drop signals beginning of 2009

Revelers bundled up and drank warm beverages as they braved below freezing temperatures at First Night Raleigh 2009.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Despite windy conditions and cold temperatures, thousands of revelers descended upon downtown Wednesday for the First Night Raleigh 2009 celebration.

Temperatures dropped to below freezing around 11 p.m. and winds calmed, WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said. Earlier in the day wind gusts reached 39 at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

Spectators bundled up for the festivities, which began at 2 p.m. with the children's celebration at the North Carolina Museums of History and Natural Sciences and outside on Bicentennial Plaza. The event was followed by the people's procession – a parade around the state Capitol grounds.

“There’s so much fun and so much entertainment,” procession volunteer Kimberly Holloway said.

The parade, which went down Fayetteville Street, featured bagpipes and the Helping Hand Mission Marching Band. This year's theme was the "Chinese New Year."

In addition to parade, children enjoyed face painting and coloring.

John Brown and the Groove Shop Band entertained the crowd leading up to the early 7 p.m. New Year's countdown. Fireworks were also set off.

Evening entertainment featured music, comedy, dance and theater in two dozen downtown locations. The Acorn dropped at midnight, followed by fireworks.

Many revelers moved with the music in an effort to stay warm.

“It’s freezing cold and the only way to stay warm tonight is dancing,” said Tracy Russell, who was visiting the area from Florida.

Some professional dancers taught ballroom, country western and swing dancing at the Sir Walter Apartments Ballroom.

Fans of the popular "Guitar Hero" video game got a chance to face-off against Blake Peebles, a local teen who has received national attention for his skill at the game.

Others took in the music. Shaun Jay performed as a magician at the event last year. He returned this year a spectator.

“We just wanted to support the event, visit some friend and enjoy the new year,” Jay said.

Many people sipped on warm beverages, including coffee and hot cider, as they waited for the giant Acorn to drop on Fayetteville Street.

“It’s way too cold to be drinking champagne tonight,” reveler Randal Roberge said.

“It’s different from our ball in New York in Times Square, but it’s nice. It’s a change,” said Olivia Harris, who was visiting the area from New York.


Other celebrations
Across the state, other celebrations rang in the New Year.

Mount Olive had a pickle drop, which featured a 3-foot lighted pickle replica lowered down the flagpole of Mt. Olive Pickle Co. for the 10th year.

“It’s just a hoot. Last year we had about 2,000 people here and this is a place of less than 5,000 – so that’s a pretty good turnout,” Mount Olive Pickle Company Community Relations representative Lynn Williams said.

In Brasstown, citizens watched a possum drop. Clay Logan said he will sponsor the 14th annual possum drop at his store in the community of Brasstown near the North Carolina-Georgia border. He said the live animal, in a cage, is gently lowered from his country store's roof.

Southern Pines has its ball drop at 8:15 p.m. as part of its First Eve event, which features family-oriented activities and entertainment on Broad Street.

Wake Forest rang in the New Year with the inaugural First Light Wake Forest.

Fayetteville hosted a charity President's Black & White Ball at the Metropolitan Room on Green Street as part of its festivities. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Rape Crisis Center. There was also a midnight breakfast buffet and champagne toast.