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A primer: Celebrating New Year's Eve in Columbia

Heading out tonight for New Year’s Eve? Here are a few things you might want to know if you’re out and about in Columbia:

WEATHER

Today’s light rain should be tapering off by the time evening festivities are in full swing. Lows will be hovering close to 40. Bring a jacket.

DRIVER SAFETY CHECKS

The Richland County Sheriff’s Department will be conducting driver safety checks tonight.

The S.C. Highway Patrol, Columbia Police Department and Eastover Police Department will assist with the checkpoints, which will include:

— The east and west ramps of I-20 onto Clemson Road

— Bush River Road at I-26.

FREE RIDES HOME

While you’re getting ready to go out tonight, tuck this number into your pocket: (803) 799-3311.

That’s Checker Yellow, a Columbia cab company that’s offering its annual free ride home program tonight. A sponsorship with Budweiser covers the first $10 of a ride home or to a hotel.

Hours are 11 p.m. to 3 a.m.

Peyton Greene, general manager of Checker Yellow, said the deal translates into a ride of about four miles, so people who live farther out will have to make up the difference.

"It’s designed basically to get people home safely," Greene said. "They can call a cab and we’ll take them to a bar, but they don’t get the $10 off."

Greene offered a few tips for folks taking cabs tonight:

— When calling for a cab, make sure you have the name of the business or address where you are.

— Ask the most sober person in your group to make the call.

— Don’t bring open containers in the cab, and don’t offer the driver alcohol.

— Check for personal items before leaving the cab.

Another option: Call a valet service to deliver you home in your own car.

Hall Todd, manager of the new Valet US, serves the Columbia metropolitan area by stowing a fold-up scooter in his customers’ trunk and driving them home in their own car.

"You don’t have to leave it or get it towed," he said.

Cost is a $10 pick-up fee plus $3 per mile.

College students who live downtown and have a valid ID are charged a $10 flat fee, Todd said.

Hours are 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. or by appointment.

Call (803) 528-6559. Hall noted, too, his service is listed on Facebook.

For people who live beyond downtown, he suggested reservations. -->

EVENTS

Check out today's happenings at area clubs, bars and other venues at our local events calendar.

If you're in the market for family-friendly activities, here are a couple ideas:

—"WOW! 2010," Columbia's New Year's Eve celebration, begins at 5 p.m.; Finlay Park, 930 Laurel St.. Details: columbiaactioncouncil.net or (803) 545-3111

— Holiday Lights on the River: Enjoy a quiet farewell farewell to the 2009 holiday season with a driving trip through Saluda Shoals Park’s Holiday Lights on the River. It runs from 6-10 tonight at 5605 Bush River Road. Admission for cars, $10. (803) 772-3903 or icrc.net

IN THE NIGHT SKY

For the first time in a decade, New Year's Eve revelry will take place by the light of a "blue" moon. Savor the moment, because the phenomenon in which two full moons occur in the same calendar month won't happen again in December until 2028.

Tonight's blue moon also coincides with a lunar eclipse, but it won't be visible in our hemisphere.

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