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VOL. 35 | NO. 51 | Friday, December 23, 2011




Nashvillians cross their fingers over countdown

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NASHVILLE (AP) — Midnight kisses in Nashville had to wait last New Year's Eve. Champagne toasts were delayed.

In a sobering stop to the countdown to midnight, the official celebration in downtown Nashville was halted when a brightly lit guitar descending from a scaffolding track to mark the last seconds got stuck 10 feet above the zero mark.

"People were so full of themselves, if you know what I mean, that they thought they'd seen an illusion," recalled Jack Cawthon, who owns a barbecue restaurant in the middle of the celebration.

They're going to try again Saturday night.

Undeterred, city officials will have a countdown from a structure 20 feet higher than last year. A 15-foot-tall red music note will descend slowly from a 115-foot structure.

"Our model is New York City (Times Square), and we want to be mentioned in that same breath," said a confident Butch Spyridon, president of the Convention & Visitors Bureau. Proj ections are that 30,000 well-fortified partygoers will jam the riverfront for the last moments of 2011 and a concert by Lynyrd Skynyrd, who'll play their classic "Free Bird" during the countdown.

The city will have total control of the countdown apparatus this year unlike a year ago when Nashville was a partner with a national restaurant chain.

"There was a mechanical glitch; I would say operator error," Spyridon said. "We've taken it over ourselves, and we're using a different company (for the apparatus).

"You want it to work. It's the exclamation point on the night. Midnight still came and we had fireworks and a celebration."

Cawthon, ever a city promoter, put it this way:

"We all have hiccups every now and then."

For good measure, officials have added confetti cannons this year. Sirius XM Radio will broadcast the events live to a national audience. The evening has been dubbed "The Bash on Broadway" signifying the street where the festivi ties will be held.

"We'll have quality music, star power, a memorable midnight moment and plenty of room," Spyridon promised.

Most downtown hotels are already full with thousands of visitors for the Mississippi State-Wake Forest Music City Bowl game Friday.

For Jenny Steuber of the CVB, the big night offers a chance for achievement:

"Now I can mark something off my bucket list: Singing 'Free Bird' with Lynyrd Skynyrd."

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