Thousands pack downtown to ring in New Year

Many in the crowd were just local families looking for a good time

SAN ANTONIO – As the New Year rolled into San Antonio, it rolled in with plenty of company.

Thousands gathered near Hemisfair Park, eating, listening to music and waiting for the much-anticipated fireworks at Celebrate San Antonio, the free New Year's Eve celebration. The San Antonio Parks Foundation, which organizes the event, estimated about 250,000 would be gathered in the downtown area and 65,000 to 70,000 would be around Hemisfair Park. 

By 5 p.m. a few couples and families meandered along Alamo Street among the food stands and carnival games. 

Among them was the Gutierrez family. The San Antonio family of four was getting their walkabout out of the way in advance of the big crowds. 

Sid Gutierrez said his family had rented a room in the Hilton and would be watching the fireworks from there, where there was a little more leg room.

"When all the fireworks and everything go off, we're up there just kind of waving at everyone," he said. "And it's wild. You see just like a bunch of ants everywhere."

For those who came out, there were three stages of music, carnival rides, games and plenty of food - especially if they were looking for a last cheat meal before their resolution kicked in.

Of course, one attraction reigned supreme, the fireworks.

"Well I mean I've only seen it on the news. So I mean, it's going to be pretty cool to see it in person," said young Sophia Fitch.

Many in the crowd were just local families looking for a good time.

"Just something different," said Roxanne Montelongo, who was out with her family. "We wanted to see something different, and you know, we're having fun."

The New Year's Eve celebration may not be as famous as Fiesta, but it has earned a bit of a reputation.

One couple came down from Dallas because they had seen San Antonio listed as one of the best places to ring in the New Year. Another from Santa Cruz, California said they were on their way through town and heard about the celebration.

"And we've just been eating food and kind of supporting this town," said Teri Jewell, sporting a silver Happy New Year hat. "You know? I love it. This is a great city."

San Antonio Parks Foundation President and CEO Noah Almanza said Celebrate San Antonio shows just how well San Antonio could pull off that kind of event.

"We've been a city on the rise for some time, but I think this event, and especially in a couple of years when we get to the tricentennial,  you're really going to see what the city of San Antonio means, not just to the people here and around the state, but also the country."

It's a dream of a city on the rise, but it's a dream that's now one year closer to happening.

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