Bradenton bash bids 'lucky' 2013 goodbye

rdymond@bradenton.comJanuary 1, 2014 

BRADENTON -- "Lucky 13" was a great sendoff for 2013.

The Lauren Mitchell Band opened with "Lucky 13" before an estimated 2,000 revelers on New Year's Eve on Old Main Street in downtown Bradenton.

"It's a song about winning and losing," said band founder Lauren Mitchell of Sarasota, who unleashed her deep, bluesy, opera-trained voice for an appreciative crowd, many of whom danced under the stars in light jackets knowing the rest of the nation had muffs on their ears.

"I didn't realize it also works as a 2013 goodbye," Mitchell said of the song.

About 30 minutes before the band struck its first chords, dozens of people had already been sitting for about an hour in folding chairs on the sidewalk of Old Main to hear the music and to see Bradenton's large white ball drop at midnight -- the magic moment when one year ends and one begins.

Michiganders Harry and Pat Diskin, who live in the Cortez Villas six months out of the year, were among the first to arrive with their chairs. The couples, who met when both were widowed, call themselves "newlyweds" with only 15 years of marriage.

"We come to this every year and sit in the same spot," said Harry Diskin, pointing to a point on the sidewalk across Old Main from The B-Towne Coffee Co. and The Distillery.

Harry loves to tell the couple's story. The laughter it brings seems richer in the cool late December air.

"I attended grief counseling after I lost my wife," Diskin said. "That's a great place to meet women. By the end of the group sessions, there were 15 women and just one man, me. I had great odds going for me. I ended up with Pat and she was actually the grief counselor."

Pat laughs.

"He's Irish and some of that is blarney," she said.

A few yards up Old Main, Don and Nancy Makeever of Riverdale in East Manatee are sitting on a wall ledge with Mac Daddy, their boxer and Lola, a small dog they are pooch-sitting.

The portrait of a happy family, they have been married 29 years.

They say they have found their personal key to making each year fun and fantastic.

"We ride motorcycles together," said Nancy Makeever, a Beall's corporate senior supervisor. "We go to the mountains."

"We go to Bike Week in Daytona," Don Makeever said.

Don's smiling face indicates the couple is doing what they enjoy in life, which makes each year more fulfilling.

"I build motorcycles, including restoring some and doing some custom work," Don Makeever said.

Toni Penaloza and her great grandson, Romeo McCallister, 5, sit on a curb not far from the Makeevers and enjoy food from event vendors, which includes barbecue, hot dogs, tacos and the famous popcorn from Miller's Snack Shack at the Red Barn Flea Market.

"He thinks we are at a fair," Penaloza said of Romeo.

Pam Miller, owner of Miller's Snack Shack with her husband, Mike, and the former Pam Aiken who graduated from Palmetto High School in 1985, said she counts her blessings that every year at New Year she is in Manatee County.

"I'm fifth-generation Manatee County," said Miller, who was working her booth with her son, Logan, 15. "No matter how big it gets, Manatee County feels like a hometown."

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or via Twitter @ RichardDymond.

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