SALT LAKE CITY — Amber Sayes holds a hopeful view of 2018.
"Just moving forward, bigger dreams," Sayes, from Farmington, concluded when asked what she hopes the year will hold for her. "I hope — my kids — that they have bigger aspirations and bigger dreams."
Sayes, her children and other family members were among Utahns from all around the state who gathered for a host of festivities at the Gateway Sunday as they basked in the nostalgia of the year gone by and anticipated the arrival of 2018.
This year's New Year's Eve celebration in Salt Lake City featured live music headlined by folk singer Joshua James, a sizeable array of indoor games, a drinks lounge, and of course a large projection showing a countdown clock.
Luseane Puamau, who moved to Salt Lake City from the San Francisco Bay area in October, said that because she is new to the state, she "didn't know what to do for New Year's except to stay home." She was grateful to find that the city was putting on a celebration that could include her four children.
"Since it's family-oriented … for Salt Lake to pull something off like this, it's not surprising at all," Puamau said.
This year's celebration was put on with the help of Comcast NBC Universal and was the first of its kind in Salt Lake City dubbed "Last Hurrah," which replaced the EVE Winterfest coordinated by the Downtown Alliance for the past several years.
“Downtown is a hub of activity day in and day out,” said Jason Mathis, executive director of the Downtown Alliance, a nonprofit that promotes vibrancy downtown.
“This is a natural progression and shows our city has grown up, and will continue to do so in creative ways. That’s why Last Hurrah will be such an exciting part of that evolution. This represents the next phase of downtown.”
Sayes' sister, Hayley Manchego, of Kaysville, said her extended family is staying at a Hyatt hotel downtown for New Year's Eve, marking the first time they've ever celebrated the holiday that way.
"Normally, we just hang out at home," Manchego said. "We're looking to ring out 2017 for both the adults and the kids. … If the little ones can handle (staying up until midnight), we can."
Several hundred people were already getting a jump on the activities at the Gateway before the celebration officially kicked off at 10 p.m., with many more expected to filter in for the countdown as the night wore on.
Asked whether she views downtown as a destination for celebrations like the one happening Sunday, Manchego said, "I think they're doing a lot better than they were."
"This is a good setup out here," she said, gesturing around to the concert stage and the large room where partygoers were playing cornhole, Guitar Hero, giant checkers and other games. "I like that everything is really close."
Manchego is looking forward to a big 2018. "I hope for a lot of new experiences with the family," she said. But she wasn't quite ready to kick the past 12 months to the curb either.
"I feel like 2017 was a year of growth for me," she said.
Ted Martinez, of Clinton, said he jumped at the chance to go to Last Hurrah because he knew it's something his whole family would enjoy. His sons visit him from Delaware each Christmas season, he said, and he wants to make as many memories as possible while they're here.2 comments on this story
"(It was) something to get us out of the house, something to have fun ringing in the new year, hopefully something for the kids to remember," Martinez said.
He added with a smile, "It's hard to impress a 16-year-old, but we try to do everything we can."
Martinez also sees downtown Salt Lake City becoming more of a hub for cultural celebrations, though he hasn't always viewed the city that way.
"We've seen the ups and downs (since it hosted the Olympic Games). To see where it is now, there is good hope for it," he said.