We had decided to go downtown to Victory Plaza for the Big D NYE new year’s eve extravaganza. This is Dallas’ small-time answer to Times Square – a free outdoor party for as many folks as can cram into a public space. I thought about not going – it’s a big hassle to get down there with all those folks and, especially, to get back home again, plus – I was feeling pretty nasty with a cold coming on.

But we decided to give it a shot anyway. I didn’t want to hassle with parking so we took the DART train down. Here’s a hint for taking the train to big events, if you live along the Red line, like we do, drive a bit east and catch the Blue line in Garland. A lot fewer people ride the Blue, and the trains won’t be as packed.

So we made it into downtown and the weather was nice and balmy, though there was a promise of a cold front with north winds to come. When I had walked around the nightime skyscrapers for Unsilent Night I was surprised at the amount of activity that was going on in Downtown… I was used to the sidewalks being rolled up when the businessmen went home to the suburbs. I remembered a pizza joint that promised to be open ’til 3AM and had that sort of Italian down-home greasy look to it that promised delicious pizza.

We walked around and never found the place. However, everything was hopping, and we ended up at another, more pedestrian pizza spot, The Original Italian Cafe and Bar at the corner of Field and Main. We sat outside on a sidewalk table and enjoyed a really good pizza, terrible service, and a parade of interesting folks walking by on new year’s eve. There were women in sequined evening wear and impossibly high heels stumbling along, homeless drifters stunned by the activity, and groups of football fanatics (holiday bowl games in town) wearing their teams colors and wandering around staring at tourist brochures. One group called out, “Does anyone know where Main Street is?,” while standing under a street sign that spelled out “Main and Field.”

I only intended to eat a little because the big celebration at Victory park promised a lineup of food trucks, but I gobbled down too much pizza anyway.

Which was fine because, once we hoofed it over to Victory Park, worked our way through the security checkpoints we were presented with the tasty lineup of food trucks, and none of them had a line less than a hundred yards long.

We arrived at about ten and Candy found her usual spot of grass at the corner of Houston Street and Olive.

She set up the folding chair we had brought and sat down to relax while I, as she said, “walked out into that mosh pit.” It’s true, sometimes I like to simply mix with humanity, and a street party on New Year’s Eve is good for that. There are a lot of people, incredible diversity, and everyone is in a good mood. I’m big and tall enough to not feel too intimidated by the crowd, as long as it isn’t pushing, moving, and swelling (like it sometimes does at Mardi Gras on Bourbon).

I managed to get back to check on Candy and she said Lee had come by with his friends. They were out in the crowd somewhere.

The festivities began to heat up and the crowd began to grow as we approached midnight. There were the usual lineup of bands. We didn’t have Lady Gaga, but we did have Sleeperstar. Lee knows that band from their early days – he said he’s gone out to eat with them a few times.

The crowd kept growing, pumped up when the Dallas Stars hockey game ended and dumped another ten thousand or so out on the streets. I tried to get back to check on Candy, but the crowd was getting really dense and I couldn’t move more than five feet. Midnight arrived, we all yelled and the fireworks went off. It’s an impressive display, fired off from the roof of the American Airlines Center and the buildings around it. By that time the cold north wind was really blowing and the smoke and burning embers blinded me to some of the spectacular. At least I was able to see a few rockets blown astray by the wind scream into the expensive balconies of the W hotel next door – that alone was worth the price of admission (it was free).

I didn't want to carry my good camera in the crowd, so this is the best I could do. Fifty thousand of my best friends.

That always fascinates me standing there trapped in the rowdy crowd in the street. I can look up where the skyscraping towers of the W hotel and luxury highrise condominium towers rise up into the night sky until they almost seem to touch their blue-neon lined tops together, far overhead. I can see lonely rich folks standing at their floor-to ceiling windows, in suits and evening gowns, holding champagne flutes in their hands, staring out and down onto the massive dense crowd stretching out, filling the streets for blocks on end. What are they thinking? What is their opinion of the rabble in the streets below? Are they happy? Are they having fun?

I’m sure they are glad they don’t have to wait in line at the porta-potties.

There is nothing more boring than blurry, shakycam, youtube footage of fireworks – but here is some anyway.

This footage is from within Victory Plaza itself, I was outside in the streets, at the foot of the W Hotel – the tall blue neon-topped building in the footage.

This youtube video was taken only a few feet from where I was standing.

Once the fireworks died down I fought my way through the huddled masses to where Candy was and found she had been pushed back behind a line of trees by the growing crowd. I’m afraid that the current location may be about maxed out as far as the number of people that it can support. I would guess that about fifty thousand were down there – if they want it to grow larger they are going to have to figure out how to get some more open space involved.

Walking out, I looked up and noticed the ball on top of Reunion Tower was multi-colored. This was something new.

We didn’t want to get involved in the crowds fighting onto the trains at Victory Park itself, so we walked back into downtown and caught a train at Akard Station. It was packed up until Mockingbird, when the Red line folks got off, and as I thought, the Blue line was fine from then on.

It was fun and I was glad I went, but I think this might be the last year for me to go down for the big crowd event. The crowds are getting a bit large, and I’m not sure what else it will have to offer in the future. I think I might find a nice little party somewhere next year. Even though I don’t think I can afford one of those glass-lined suites overlooking Victory Plaza.

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