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Monday, January 09, 2012

Explore Carroll parting shot pictures - Big turn out for first annual Westminster New Year’s Eve celebration

Explore Carroll parting shot pictures - Big turn out for first annual Westminster New Year’s Eve celebration

Also see: Happy New Year By Kevin Dayhoff, January 1, 2012 

At the stroke of midnight New Year’s Day in downtown Westminster, nothing dropped. Not a brightly lighted ball - or anything, for that matter.

As the crowd shouted in unison, “five, four, three, two, one; Happy New Year” - a large American flag was raised on a bright yellow bucket lift donated by Ben’s Rental. “2012” accompanied the flag in numbers in bright lights on a homemade four-by- eight Styrofoam backboard powered by a portable generator.

“Hey, you know, I mean, why not, we’re always looking up in Westminster…and if anything, we’re patriotic…,” said Westminster Kevin Utz with a broad grin, as he nodded approvingly at the flag suspended about thirty-five-feet in the air above Main Street.

With the temperature in the lower 40s, no snow and hardly any wind, the weather was perfect for almost 500 people who attended the first annual Westminster New Year’s Eve celebration in historic downtown Westminster Saturday night.

Lori Graham, who spearheaded the event, had put a great deal of thought as to “what the heck do you drop” for a new Westminster New Year’s Eve tradition. Oh, there were plenty of silly ideas, smiled Graham devilishly. In the end, it was decided to not drop anything at all.

In honor of the troops, the men and women in uniform, coming home from the Middle East, Graham wanted to honor their service by raising the flag for the Carroll County New Year’s celebration in the first unit block of West Main Street. “I wanted a patriotic Westminster family-oriented event.”

The Westminster police and the Westminster street department blocked-off the area just minutes before 11:30 p.m., Saturday evening, as folks had already begun to gather.

Westminster Councilman Tony Chiavacci was there, with thirty folks from his New Year’s Eve party. “I brought the whole party here,” said Chiavacci as he peered over the crowd. “Great to see everyone here… Give us a couple of years and look out Times Square,” in a reference to the hundreds of thousands who attend the traditional dropping of an expensive Tiffany Ball.

New York City got started on its New Year’s Eve celebration over a hundred years ago - in 1906. This was Westminster’s first year for a family-community celebration and Graham and city officials and other community leaders got started on last Saturday’s event, about 100-days ago...

“Just like New York,” said Bernie Stallknecht, from Hampstead. She was there with her family. “We unusually go the (Baltimore) harbor. We wanted to support a Carroll County celebration… (This was) just wonderful. Keep it local.”

“No wonder they came here. New York hasn’t got anything on Westminster,” added Graham, as families hugged and kissed and strangers greeted each other with “Happy New Year.”

Westminster Volunteer Fire Department President Bob Cumberland, watched from the back of the crowd with fire department treasurer Bob Ruby and Westminster Police Chief Jeff Spaulding – who was busy coordinating crowd control with Captain Nancy Yeager.

“Happy New Year – be safe in 2012. We’re thankful for all the community support last year and looking forward to even better things this year,” said Cumberland.

Ruby, who also serves with the fire police, stopped in the middle of his greeting to listen to his radio. “Happy… wait a minute. Well, there goes the first call of the year, shrubs on fire from fireworks… Where was I? Oh, Happy New Year.”

Utz noted that he was “overwhelmed with the turn-out. We thought we might just get a few folks – a Westminster crowd - from the downtown restaurants. But, families came from all over Carroll County,” said Utz.

Long after midnight, Utz, Graham, Westminster Street Superintendent Larry Bloom, Westminster Administrator of Economic Development Stan Ruchlewicz and his wife, Pat, waited patiently to dismantle the flag and lights while families lined-up to have their pictures taken with the “2012” display.

Ruchlewicz was all smiles as he and his wife clicked-away with cameras handed to them. “Great turn out for a first time event,” said Ruchlewicz, a seasoned urban planner and veteran of helping putting together many events over the years. “Especially for a family-centered event at midnight…”

Mike Johnson, from Westminster, was also pleased with the event and added, “All traditions have to start somewhere…” as he surveyed the families having their pictures taken.

Bloom, who is also in charge of the city’s snow clearing operations, was glad for good weather. “This weather was great for a good turn out,” said Bloom as he began to unplug the lights.

“This was awesome,” Graham kept saying to no one in particular. “Just awesome that so many families came out. It’s good to have a local community event for families right here in Carroll County.”


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