Day 10: December 31, 2012
A Raleigh Big Show

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This is the reason I'm here. It's the reason I headed to Raleigh from Augusta rather than continuing on a more direct route home from the end of the Dixie Highway Georgia Connector. Raleigh is "The City of Oaks" and the giant acorn is ceremoniously "dropped" to start each new year here. In 2005, while here on business, I saw the big nut resting in a downtown park and learned about its year end duties. When I saw that my Dixie Highway plans put me in the (generously measured) neighborhood shortly before New Year's Eve, I decided to see for myself.

For First Night Raleigh, downtown streets are blocked off and occupied by a one day carnival. The tall structure in the first picture is the Jumbo Drop. Beyond it is the Fantastic First Night Ferris Wheel. The Jumbo Drop is promoted with the question "Ever wonder what it's like to be the Raleigh Acorn?". Apparently a lot of people have. Even more wanted to see all that could be seen from the top of the 90 foot wheel. The All Day Passes included both rides but the line at the Ferris wheel was never short enough to get me to join it even though I did want to see what could be seen. The last picture is of the First Night Aerial Cirque Stunt Showcase.

Stuff was happening everywhere. I missed a lot more than I saw. A pass got you into various inside performance around downtown and into the area directly in front of the main stage but were not required to stroll the carnival and enjoy things like the in-the-street Aerial Stunt Showcase. Main stage performance could easily be heard and seen without a pass. Downtown Raleigh has free wi-fi which worked quite well in the primary carnival area along Fayetteville Street. A downloadable app with map, schedule, and more was available free for both Android and iOS. There were even cards with a QR code being handed out to help access the app.

First Night itself is an alcohol free event though drinks are available in restaurants and bars throughout downtown. I stopped in at The London Bridge Pub and, based entirely on this commercial, ordered a Carlsberg. I walked in just before 7:00 PM EST which also happens to be 12:00 AM GMT. Shortly after my beer appeared so did a stemmed glass which was soon filled with champagne. After a loud countdown, we all drank a toast and got the new year started.

Sometime later I had dinner at Cafe Luna. Like just about every place in the area, it was crowded and there was a bit of a wait. There was also a little problem getting my meal but the crab, lobster, & prawn stuffed Tortelli Crostacci ("Ravioli", the waiter said when I asked.) was excellent when it arrived and the goof made the Moretti free.

Note that, although the website's URL has but one 'F', the text and the neon signs say this place is Caffe Luna.

I caught some of the plentiful music. That first picture is of the Jonathan Scales Fourchestra who opened the main stage. Guitar maestro Cool John Ferguson fronted a trio at the Long View Center. Local heroes Delta Rae played until the midnight hour and guitarist Ian Hölljes got engaged along the way. During their next to last song, an extra singer came on stage or maybe she was just dragged on at the end of the song. In either case, Ian dropped to his knee and proposed and she accepted. The crowd loved it.

The acorn begins its descent a little before midnight and the crowd counts it down. It reaches the ground more or less as the new year starts and fireworks soon fill the sky behind it. And that's the way Raleigh, North Carolina greeted 2013.

In case you're still singing and need a little accompaniment, here's the tune you're looking for played on what has become my favorite holiday instrument.

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