New Year's Eve is near, which means the Guercios are ready to party _lowres

Photo provided by ANN GUERCIO -- Dancing is always a part of the Guercios' New Year's Eve party, which they've been hosting for almost 20 years. At the 2005 party, Ann Guercio hit the dance floor with Palmer Perque.

After almost 20 years of hosting a New Year’s Eve party, Ann LeBlanc Guercio has it down to a science and a 3-inch-thick notebook.

She and her husband, Rob, usually end up with about 400 guests who drop in beginning about 7 p.m. Their invitations, which are different every year, encourage guests to bring friends they will be with that evening.

“I invite people all year,” she said. “I update my list, and when I find people I want to invite, I put them in my notebook.”

The Guercios are never surprised at who shows up.

“One year we had a sea of women in full-length minks with men in tuxedos,” she said. “I told Rob, ‘They sure look nice, but I don’t know a single one of them.’”

Turns out a friend brought her whole supper club on the way to the New Year’s Eve party at the Baton Rouge Country Club.

On the record

The Guercios do most of the work themselves. He takes charge of the bar, which is manned by one bartender with a second bar for serve-yourself wine refills.

“Rob keeps detailed records of how much liquor and wine we use,” Ann Guercio said. “We serve mixed drinks, wine and soft drinks but no specialty drinks. They take too much time.”

She handles the food, which is pretty much the same every year.

“I do as much ahead as possible,” she said, by using what she calls the “pan system.”

Guercio prepares the food in advance and packs it in throwaway aluminum pans. She gauges how much to make based on her figures from the year before.

Generally, she serves three hot items, 11 or 12 cold or room temperature items and three or four desserts. Her kitchen is manned by two or three servers, who keep the tables full.

A little help from her friends

The evening before the party, friends Hal and Pat Canning come over to help Guercio make sushi.

Friends also fix desserts, which Guercio says is not her thing.

“I let friends help,” she said.

Shiny & bright

Guercio keeps her Christmas decorations to a minimum but leaves them up for the party. “The people are the decorations,” she said.

She uses lots of light, especially on the disco ball that hangs from the family room chandelier.

“We don’t like it too bright, but we do have little white lights everywhere,” she said.

Ready, set, go

On the night of the party, Guercio is dressed by 4:30 p.m. with a robe over her party dress when her friend Ellen Gilmore arrives to help with the setup. When the staff arrives at 5:30 p.m., the party is almost completely set up. The tables are decorated with fresh fruit, flowers and candles and every platter is lavishly garnished.

The older crowd arrives first, Guercio said, but is gone by 8:30 or 9 p.m. By then the home is packed with a younger bunch.

At 10:30 p.m., they crank up the music from a play list developed by Rob Guercio, and everyone starts dancing under the disco ball.

Just before midnight, the televisions go on so guests can watch the ball drop in Times Square. All through the evening, friend Palmer Perque takes photos.

Stuff happens

Guercio says be prepared for disasters. She’s had a toilet back up, a grease fire in the oven and no-show staff.

Once, during the party, there was a fire in the guest bathroom when a towel fell on a burning candle on a tray.

“Denise Hochenedel just took the flaming tray and put it in the shower,” Guercio said. “She didn’t even tell me until the fire was out.”