Note to Los Angeles officials: We do like to party in public.
Sure, we’re three hours behind the East Coast, but what’s wrong with that? Finally, Los Angeles turned up the heat on New Year’s Eve this year, after being forever the stepsister to New York. Some 25,000 people – mostly very youthful – poured into the downtown 12-acre Civic Center’s Grand Park between the hours of 6 p.m. and midnight on Dec. 31, keeping-on-coming until police shut down the security gates to overflow crowds.
My husband and I arrived at 8, via the Red Line subway from Hollywood, and it was an easy ride, packed with expectant people wearing party hats. The train took us right to the Temple Street sidewalk entrance to the festivities. The security line at that hour was quick and efficient (no bags allowed), but once inside the gate we were immediately confronted by extremely long lines filling the sidewalks for – no surprise – the food trucks. We later counted about a dozen or more trucks lined up at various locations throughout the grounds -- and every one of them had lines with scores of people waiting patiently, if hungrily. We’d wisely dined before, so opted out.
Note to food truckers: This is a great opportunity – next year.
A few balloon installations decorated the venue, and you could line up (yes, again) to get your picture taken and have it projected two-stories high onto a wall of the Los Angeles County Hall of Records building. The line for the portraits was as much as a couple of hours long, we were told, so we skipped that, too.
But even so, everywhere the feeling of the event was festive, not restive, and all that you’d want from a New Year’s Eve – minus the ultra-fancy clothes or the liquor (another huge line for a smallish beer garden – not for us), and it was way warmer here than in the below-freezing N.Y.C. L.A.’s NYE was, in fact, a balmy evening, with crystal clear air and a surrounding, lit-up downtown that made the scene really, well, romantic. And urban, of course, and refreshingly communal — for L.A.
A gorgeous light show lit up the City Hall tower – with scenes of palm trees (well-suited for the L.A. winter) and various flickering, colorful abstractions. Lots to look at and quite pretty. And there were bands, all of them local, ranging from rock to rap and R and B. There is even a small dog park at the northeast end of the park, and a surprising number of people had brought their pets.
Finally, a place to really gather.
This inaugural event was sponsored by the Music Center and Los Angeles County, and kudos to them for getting it done. At 9 p.m., in a nod to tradition, the New York Times Square ball drop was projected onto the same Hall’s wall, but then the L.A. scene quickly resumed. No need to pretend we were back East.
Crowds continued to fill up the grounds, and by 10 p.m. some of the trucks were running out of food. Clearly, this kind of success was not expected – and there were few places to sit down. Even so, it was not the kind of sardine-packed, pocket-picking, risky scene of Times Square. The crowd was young, some families, very diverse and congenial.
We left long before midnight (sorry!), and as we entered the subway saw more and more people taking advantage of the free after-9 p.m. rides offered for New Years Eve by the Metro system. I’d assumed we’d see the final momentus light show on KTLA-TV or another news station once we got home.
But no. Repeats of New York were playing on even the local stations as the clock chimed 12, leaving fellow Angelenos unaware of the region's newest tradition.
Maybe the TV stations will catch on next year, because this party must go on. It was great.
May this good start to 2014 be just the beginning of many new traditions.
Happy New Year.