The location of Searcy Beats and Eats’ New Year’s Eve ball drop has been changed slightly this year in order to “make it feel a little bit like a mini-New York City,” according to coordinator Mat Faulkner.

Friday night’s ball drop will be held down Spring Street instead of in a downtown parking lot near Main Street, where it’s been held the last three years, “so this time it’s going to feel different,” Faulkner said. “We try to change it up every year, just to keep things kind of fresh and exciting for the community.

“... We wanted to kind of compress it a little bit” to create a “small-town version” of New York City, “where you have buildings on either side, so the main stage is going to be set up between Quattlebaum Music and Doorframes Boutique, right there with Rialto in the backdrop and the courthouse in the backdrop, so it will be a really neat setting.”

A “huge laser show” will start at 9 p.m. and run through midnight, he said. “Then the ball will drop, right there above the stage, by Clairday Electric. They custom fabricate the ball. They actually disassemble it every single year and then they try to change the ball animations and lights up every year so it’s a little bit different from year to year, so we’re excited about that.”

Thousands of glowing necklaces and glow wands will be available for those who attend the event, Faulkner said, “so it will be lit up throughout the crowd all the way down the street.”

He said an effort is being made to “reach out to all the different age groups this year. In years past, there wasn’t just a whole lot for kids to do and we want this to be a family-friendly event. And so this year we teamed up Battlefield Laser Tag out of Little Rock and we’re going to close down one of the side streets and have urban laser tag, and that’s going to start at 6:30 and it will stop at 11:30, so it gives time for everybody to come over for the ball drop.”

Faulkner said those who attend the event can drop by at their own convenience during the night. “It’s a come-and-go event. We do have activities that start off about 6:30 and go all the way through midnight, but if you have a family event planned, you can still do that and come to the ball drop portion of it.

“We also know that there’s football games going on that evening, so Ashley Cifreo is bringing a big blow-up screen and she is going to set that up right in front of The Cookie Basket [106 E. Market Ave.], where the food trucks are set up, and she’ll have the football game going starting at 6:30 and it will go on until the game is over there on that side street as well.”

A new indoor activity at Friday’s event will be blacklight dance bingo taking place at Robbins Sanford, 118 N. Spring St. “It should be a whole lot of fun and it should be an activity for all ages from kids all the way up to seniors to enjoy,” Faulkner said. “Basically you wear your glowing outfits like you do to a glow run. We will have lights and a DJ and music in there and we’ll have rounds of bingo where you can win prizes, and in between the bingo rounds, the DJ is going to crank up the music and everybody can stand up and have a little dance party and then have another round of bingo, and that’s going to go from 9 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.

“Connected to Robbins Sanford is the carriage room and we have Lisa Douglas with the Soda Jerk and Rise and Grind and she’s going to have a hot cocoa bar going on in there, too.” He stressed that the Robbins Sanford indoor activities will require a ticket. “It’s $5 and with that you get a souvenir mug. You will get hot cocoa; you can win prizes; you will have a little dance party; it will be a place to warm up if you happen to get cold. It’s for all ages.”

He said the tickets are basically a fast pass where ticketholders can jump to the front of the line. Information for purchasing the tickets is on the Searcy Beats and Eats Facebook page, but they also can be bought at the event Friday night.

Faulkner said there also will be a snow machine, fog machines and “cold pyrotechnics that will shoot off since we can’t have real fireworks downtown, but it should be a big party. ... It should be a good time.”

He said three or four food trucks will be available although since this is a later event, many will have already eaten. He said Searcy Beats and Eats did want to have options for those who want to have a snack. “We want them to do well,” he said.

Faulkner said that preparing for the ball drop “takes a tremendous amount of time. We have a volunteer committee of around 20 or so that works on it but it is work year-round, so it is a tremendous amount of work. ...

“We do it because we want Searcy to be a great place to live and we want people to have positive things to say about our community, and if they are a visitor coming from out of town to just be surprised about these events, these street festivals, music events, and it’s also a way to showcase the whole talent,” he said. “We do it just to make people happy, and that’s our reward. We pour a lot of ourselves into it but when we go to the events and people are smiling and having a good time and forming new relationships and hanging out with their neighbors and it gives their families something to do.

“We wish there were more things to do in Searcy and instead of just wishing and things not happening, we just took a step forward to work together to make some things happen, so it’s a lot of fun and it’s a lot of hard work. We have got a great committee. They are creative, they are positive, they work together and when it all comes together, it is a great thing for the community and not just the community, but for those around Searcy as well.”

And it appears that the weather might cooperate with the effort With warm weather and about a 30 percent chance of rain, Faulkner said it looks like Friday “should be a very comfortable evening.”

“In years past, it has been frigid and people have to bundle up to come out, but I think this year it’s going to be pretty comfortable as we’ve seen a warmer December than we typically had,” he said.

Despite previously cold weather, Faulkner said drawing in out-of-town visitors for the ball drop “has gone so well in Searcy in the past that we actually had the city of Benton call us and ask us how we handle the ball [for the ball drop] ... and I believe Benton is even throwing their own ball drop this year, so we are excited to be working and helping other communities throw their own events in other parts of the state.”

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