Freezing Cold New Year might not sound as fashionable, but it would have been more descriptive of Columbia’s annual end of the year party Wednesday night.
Temperatures hit 40 by 8 p.m. on their way to the low 30s by midnight at the Famously Hot New Year event, but celebrants merely bundled up and carried on.
“I came to see the O’Jays, and I can’t wait,” said Sherrie Jefferson, in town from Lithonia, Ga. “I’ve got on three or four layers of clothes, so I hope I don’t get too cold.”
Jefferson showed up late in the afternoon, a few hours after her new friend Janet “Tinkerbell” Clark tooled her wheelchair into the primo center stage front row on the edge at Main and Gervais streets in front of the State House. “I didn’t know when to get here, so I was here at 2 o’clock,” said Clark, who wore a turtleneck, a scarf and a stocking cap to battle the weather. “I came to see the O’Jays and the fireworks.”
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The cold didn't translate into fewer people. Mayor Steve Benjamin announced from the stage that it was the largest crowd in the four years of the event. Although the final attendance won't be announced for several days, organizers insisted Main Street was more crowded than in the past.
Jefferson and Clark were among about 50 people waiting for Lefty at the Washout to take the stage around 8 p.m.
When the music started, the crowd around the stage quickly doubled.
Even under the stage lights, Lefty lead singer Charles Wilkie donned a hoodie to keep warm.
Meanwhile, those who paid for the VIP Absolut Crescent Lounge enjoyed food and drinks in the warmth of the Capitol Center, where off-the-shoulder dresses replaced the heavy coats outside.
Four blocks north on Main Street, kids and their parents ignored the music. They were too busy with the rides and games at the WOW New Year’s Eve Carnival.
Chalmers Baker picked his dad, Paul, to go with him on a spinning ride.
“I’m glad his Daddy went with him,” said Chalmers’ mother, Tonya, as the ride picked up speed and the wind-chill factor set in for the riders.
Paul Baker’s uncovered hands were frozen by the end of the ride, but almost 4-year-old Chalmers wasn’t fazed.
“Was it cold?” Tonya asked.
“It was fun!” Chalmers said.
That brief conversation summed up the night.