Thousands ring in the new year in Salt Lake City

Published: Saturday, Dec. 31 2011 10:58 p.m. MST

Ice skaters enjoy the fire at the Gallivan Center during New Years Eve celebration in Salt Lake City Saturday, Dec. 31, 2011.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Several thousand revelers filled downtown Saturday night with hopes for the new year in mind and loved ones in tow.

The annual Eve celebration, organized by the Downtown Alliance and a variety of other sponsors, was expected to bring about 20,000 to 25,000 people to Salt lake City. The three-night event was the biggest celebration to date.

"Tonight will be huge," said Jesse Dean, assistant to the director of the Downtown Alliance, as the night kicked off.

The scene was a bit different this year, with no snow or ski jump events to speak of, but that didn't stop people from counting down the hours, and eventually, seconds.

Autumn Mariano, a senior at Copper Hills High, said she was glad to be downtown among seven of her friends and other revelers. It was certainly a nice change of pace from what she's used to, she said.

"I'm sick of hanging out at home on New Year's," Mariano said. "We thought we'd try something different."

Mariano and friends admired the various exhibits at the Clark Planetarium, where they were hoping to catch a light show. They were out of luck, though, as the more than 800 tickets available for the night sold out early Saturday afternoon.

They were undeterred, however, as they made their way to the finale fireworks show launched from downtown.

"The goal of Eve really is a community event," Dean said. "It's a huge group of creative minds getting together."

Joel Otterstrom and his wife were typical of the hundreds of young families gathered at the Salt Palace to enjoy the indoor family-friendly events

"It's been really nice for kids, that's for sure," Otterstrom said. "It's pretty convenient."

His 2-year-old daughter Betty played on a fluorescent foam crescent quadruple her size as other children ran about, glad to not be accessories at stuffy, grown-up parties.

Across the hall, kids and adults alike heaved hundreds of inflatable balls of all sizes to the ceiling and back. Inflatable slides, bounce houses and gauntlets littered the convention center, while the occasional kid sat cross-legged in a corner trying to recover from all the excitement.

After the culminating countdown and awestruck eyes looking skyward, couples would walk back to their cars or TRAX, past a downtown full of Christmas tree lights that won't shine again until next holiday season.

e-mail: mfarmer@desnews.com Twitter: mollyfarmer

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