Downtown Bradenton gets down for New Years' Eve

BRADENTON — It may not have been Times Square but Old Main Street was packed New Year’s Eve with people looking to ring in 2011 with an outdoor celebration.

Unlike most parties that tend to be a bit adult orientated during the holiday, Countdown Downtown was family friendly with bounce houses and face painting for children.

Rachel Booth, 35, a mother of three, said this type of family celebration is “a lot better because we can all be together.”

The Old Main Street Merchants Association organized the event, which featured music on two stages, vendors, special drink sales by major sponsor Stella Artois and, of course, a ball drop at midnight.

“It’s pretty cool,” said Wayne Elsmore, describing the green ball he made mainly of fiber glass and other fire retardant materials. Booth’s daughter Sierra spent much of her night at the Refuge Calvary Chapel booth where children glued Styrofoam letters and shapes onto paper to represent their wishes for the years.

Sierra, 13, added a cross, her name and stars onto her artwork.

“My New Year’s resolution is to have God be more of a part of my life,” Sierra said. Like most downtown Bradenton events this one had a charity component to it with a drive to collect coats, blankets and dog “outerwear” for the poor in Manatee County. Rocket Angel Italian Greyhound Rescue had a booth set up at the event to talk to people about adopting an Italian greyhound.

Sheri Clinard of Rocket Angel said they saw there was a great need for the items and will be giving all the donations to the Salvation Army and One Stop Resource Center. Traditionally, Sherry Johnson, 60, spends New Year’s Eve babysitting her grandchildren in Indiana. But this year, the snowbird spent the early part of his night at the event. “I’d be babysitting right now,” Johnson said, “This year we are partying. I love it.”

Although Johnson was planning on leaving the event before the ball dropped to avoid traffic, Kris Clark, 53, was in it until the end of 2010.

“It’s great,” said Clark. “We stay home most years, but we live right over the bridge so we decided to come out.”

She walked up and down the street with her loved ones, enjoying her final cigarettes before the ball dropped to mark day one of her resolution to kick the habit.