Call it New Year’s Eve in Times Square, Red Stick style.
For the second year, Baton Rouge will celebrate the New Year with its own official free party, Red Stick Revelry, on Wednesday. The spot is North Boulevard Town Square, and instead of a ball, a 9-foot LED-lighted red stick will drop at the stroke of midnight, ushering in 2015. After the hugs and kisses, fireworks will light the sky over the Mississippi River.
Coordinating the event, which drew an estimated 15,000 revelers to downtown for the first Red Stick Revelry last year, is event organizer Rannah Gray of Marmillion/Gray Media. Private funds from sponsors, concessions and merchandise sales go to producing the event, she said.
Q&A with Rannah Gray, Red Stick Revelry organizer
Q. It looks like the inaugural year for Red Stick Revelry was a huge success. How many people are you expecting this year?
A. Last year was a great crowd and we are hoping for even more people this year, because we have expanded the program to include live music performances by local favorites David St. Romain and a return engagement by Phat Hat, who put on a show last year that still has people talking.
Q. Will there be anything different this year than last?
A. We’ve added two-and-a-half hours to the evening show to give people even more options for planning to spend an evening downtown. The midday event starts at 11 a.m. and will feature local dance company Of Moving Colors teaching kids of all ages some cool moves along with artists working with the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge to provide some fun, hands-on activities for kids. At noon, the Red Stick rises into place and Mayor-President Kip Holden leads the children in singing “Auld Lang Syne” — and there are always a few surprises.
Q. Are there any plans to enlarge the fireworks show?
A. There will be a tremendous fireworks show like the one held in early December at the Festival of Lights to accompany the Red Stick drop at the end of the video countdown in Town Square. The Town Lawn near the Red Stick drop will be the best place for viewing the fireworks show.
Q. The Red Stick itself was a big initial purchase ($40,000). Where is it stored and what has to be done to get it ready for this year?
A. The Founding Sponsors of Red Stick Revelry purchased the Red Stick and donated it to the people of Baton Rouge, so it is carefully stored by the Department of Public Works and then taken out of storage, lifted to the top of the beacon in Town Square and tested. It sits on top of the beacon until noon on New Year’s Eve when it is raised up a 30-foot pole where it will sit about 60 feet in the air until one minute before midnight, when it starts its descent.
Q. Would you still consider it a family-friendly event?
A. Yes, we were so pleased that families attended together last year, and we hope they will again. Both bands appeal to a broad audience and have great followings when they perform in the area, and we want to work to keep this a family-friendly event with our entertainment selection.
Q. What suggestions would you make for people coming downtown for the evening? What should they bring?
A. Come early, park in either the River Center or Third Street garages. For the performances on the Crest Stage, you can bring folding chairs or blankets for sitting, but no ice chests. Port-o-lets will be located on the east side of the River Center Library. We encourage everyone to make an evening of it with a dinner reservation at one of our downtown restaurants, after hours at the downtown clubs or the Belle of Baton Rouge Casino, or plan to stay at one of our downtown hotels so you can sleep in. You can get more information on downtown restaurants and hotels at www.visitbatonrouge.com or www.downtownbatonrouge.org.
Q. Will there be food and drink vendors?
A. Yes, there will be food and beverage vendors near the stage and near the Red Stick drop.
Q. After the stick drops, and the fireworks go off, does the crowd pretty much disperse after that?
A. After the Red Stick drops, live music continues up and down the Third Street corridor until 2 a.m.
Q. Will there be a live radio or TV broadcast of the drop?
A. We are very excited that WAFB-TV will again carry Red Stick Revelry live from a special Red Stick Revelry set located near the Red Stick in Town Square with reporters roving in the crowd and Andre Moreau will again serve as the on-stage Red Stick Revelry emcee.
Q. What is Revelers’ Row, and is that new this year?
A. Since growing this event depends on finding new ways people can support Red Stick Revelry, we have added several fun ways this year to raise additional funds so we were able to expand the show. We had several downtown businesses host small events like a Celebrity Waiter Night at Stroube’s, a Champagne Stroll to our downtown hotels and an After Christmas Hangover Happy Hour at Huey’s. On New Year’s Eve, one of our new opportunities is Revelers’ Row, which is a new VIP area in Live Oak Plaza right near the Red Stick. This will give patrons a front row seat to the action and a chance to support the event to keep it growing. Those tickets are selling for $150 each at the Red Stick Revelry website (www.redstickrevelry.com) and include food, beer and wine and a champagne toast at midnight.
Red Stick Revelry Schedule (all events Wednesday)
11 a.m.-noon: Red Stick Rising, North Boulevard Town Square Hands-on activities for kids with the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge; Of Moving Colors Dance Productions and the “Red Stick Revelry” song; singing of “Auld Lang Syne” with Mayor-President Kip Holden as the Red Stick rises to 60 feet above Town Square where it will sit until countdown begins
6:30 p.m.-8:45 p.m.: David St. Romain, Crest Stage in Galvez Plaza
9 p.m.-midnight: Phat Hat, Crest Stage in Galvez Plaza
11:59 p.m.-midnight: Red Stick Drop, Town Square, fireworks show over the Mississippi River
Other BR celebrations
Crowne Plaza New Year’s Eve Party: 4728 Constitution Ave., doors opens at 7 p.m., featuring Chase Tyler Band, Carbon Copy and The V-Tones, dinner, open bar, room packages available, (225) 925-2244 or crownebaton.com
New Year’s Eve at The Radisson: 2445 S. Acadian Thruway, 11 p.m.-2 a.m., three different parties with DJ Blackout Beatz, DJ Big Cheese and host Tony King, balloon drop, champagne at midnight, food and more, $60, person; $100, couple, room packages available, (225) 236-4000 or radisson.com/batonrougela
New Year’s Eve with Henry Turner Jr. & Flavor: 10 p.m.-2 a.m., The Blues Room, 244 Lafayette St., special guest Johnny Midnite with more gusts TBA, $10, reservations suggested, free champagne at midnight, (225) 334-7663 or henryturnerjr.com
Other music shows
Drivin’ N Cryin’: Chelsea’s Café
Voyage Band: Renaissance Hotel (7 p.m.)
Top Shelf: Happy’s Irish Pub (10 p.m.)
Cam Pyle Band: Lava Cantina (9 p.m.)
LA. 1: Club 12 (1695 Beaumount Drive, 9 p.m.)
Kenny Cornett and Killin’ Time: American Legion Hall (151 S. Wooddale Blvd. (8:30 p.m.)
Dixie Rose Acoustic Circle: Teddy’s Juke Joint (Zachary, 8 p.m.)
Debbie Landry: On the Half Shell (6:30 p.m.)
DJ Lightfoot: Roux House (9 p.m.)