Defying the bitter cold, thousands of revelers packed Detroit’s Beacon Park to usher out 2017 and welcome 2018.
As midnight approached Sunday, traffic around the park was clogged for blocks, including party vans and limousines. On the sidewalks, a steady stream of people hiked toward the glittery ball drop that began the New Year, braving temperatures hovering around zero.
Gayle Vaughn and Josef Krantz, who moved downtown in 2017, were among those walking to the park.
“Hell yeah, it’s cold,” said Vaughn. “Detroit hustles harder, baby!”
The “D-Drop” was preceded several hours earlier by a kids’ version, previewing how thousands of Metro Detroiters spent New Year’s Eve: finding holiday cheer while trying to avoid frostbite.
Around 6:20 p.m., hundreds of families who were huddled in a tent at the downtown park ventured into the 11-degree chill to help count down the lowering of a neon lighted ball with the letter D to mark the coming arrival of 2018. The crowd cheered with vigor. And by 6:35 p.m., most of the celebrants were streaming out of the park and to their cars.
“The little ones wanted to come and we want them to enjoy the city,” said Raoul Chua, 33, of Troy.
That’s why he and his wife, Linda, bundled up their 8 and 9-year-old daughters, Alesia and Joy, and ventured to Beacon Park for the early New Year’s Eve countdown aimed at families with young children.
“And now we need hot chocolate and our fireplace,” Chua said as he and family left the park after the ball drop.
Thousands of residents ventured out to three outdoor public events in Metro Detroit, including the Rockin’ NYE Ball Drop in Wyandotte and the Mount Clemens New Year’s Eve Fireworks Gala.
At the Kids D-Drop, there was some grumbling amid the hardy souls. Nina Cantrell of Southfield said she didn’t appreciate having the Grand River side of the park closed off and having to walk around the other side of the triangular park, where there was little public parking.
“It’s just really cold, you know? Why make us walk even further? ” said Cantrell, who was with her young niece Sabrina.
A similar frustration was expressed by some families when they discovered the big tent in the middle of the park was for a private party – and there was no sign indicating that tent was off limits to the public. That meant many walked up to that tent only to be told the public tent was in another section of the park, forcing them to walk still farther in the bitter cold.
But many families took the challenges in stride.
“It’s free, which you know it means it will be crowded and you’ll have to deal with it. But it’s not hard to make it a good time,” said Tom Lagus, 42, of Huntington Woods, who was with his 10-year-old son, Chad.
After midnight, wind chills were predicted to drop to -17 degrees, with a high temperature of just 9 degrees forecast for New Year’s Day. No snow was expected.
The harsh cold is due to an “arctic air mass” that’s been parked over Metro Detroit for the past week and which could stay for another week, with temperatures not expected to break 20 degrees again until next Sunday – a week into 2018.
Even as Metro Detroit celebrations went ahead, the brutal winter weather iced plans for scores of New Year’s Eve celebrations in the Northeast.