BRADENTON -- "Life doesn't get any better than this."
That's what Vivian Nikkel of Manitoba, Canada said as she and her family members joined a crowd estimated at 1,000 for the New Year's Eve edition of Main Street Live on Bradenton's Old Main Street Monday night.
Back home in Winnipeg it was minus 30 degrees, but Vivian Nikkel and her husband, Elton, along with their daughter, Alana Demler, son-in-law Doug Demler and granddaughters, Svea, 7, and McKenna, 5, were wearing light jackets and sweatshirts on O'Bricks' patio. Back in Canada, the Nikkles' friends were melting snow for soup, but the Nikkels and Demlers were munching lobster BLTs and Cuban sandwiches served by the efficient Lindsey Schweitzer, whom they wanted to adopt and bring back to Canada.
"If we were back home to go outside we would have masks and scarfs and have to be completely covered," Alana Demler said.
"As I sit here tonight, on our first trip to Bradenton, I am thinking what a great place to spend New Years Eve," Vivian Nikkel said. "What a way to start the year. Do you know that in Montreal, Quebec they have had the largest snowfall in the last 100 years."
"Bradenton is small and quaint and homey, but still has a Florida feel," Alana Demler added.
As the Canadians sat and relaxed they soaked in the vibes of people meandering along Old Main. They listened to the band, Hot Ice, and waited for the ball to drop at midnight.
There were families and couples, many children, and food vendors galore.
"It's a New Years with a family feel," Alana Demler said.
Asked her wish for the New Year, Vivian Nikkel said, "World peace."
But Alana Demler said, "I wish we could move down here."
Perhaps New Year's Eve on Old Main Street was a reminder for many just how good life is in Bradenton, where one can celebrate New Years without the threat of frostbite.
Across the street from O'Brick's, the "smile" sisters, Jen Mihailovic, Rachael Stanton and Harmony Bechdolt of B-Towne Coffee Company were serving New Years customers with what they say is "the best smiles" on Old Main.
"It's true," said Bradenton's Randy Miller, who has been a regular at B-Towne for many of the nine years the establishment has been open. "I couldn't think of a better place to celebrate the New Year than at this cafe right here."
Miller's wife, Mary, joined him in a toast.
To the smile girls. To 2013. To wishes for the future.
"My wish for 2013 is for people to get along and quit accusing each other of everything," Mary Miller said. "I don't want it to be 'Us versus Them' in 2013."
Rick Willats, owner of the three-year-old O'Brick's, said downtown Bradenton has a lot to be thankful for this New Year.
"My wish for 2013 is that what started in 2012 continues," Willats said. "The downtown is slowly evolving into an amazing place. The Hampton hotel is going to be going up behind us. More and more little shops are arriving. Downtown is being transformed before our eyes."
Willats opened the O'Brick's cafe in 2012 next to his bar where the Canadian visitors dined.
"I had a phenomenal year in 2012," Willats said at 8 p.m., getting ready for the zany hours ahead. "This street is going to explode."