Amid pandemic, New Year’s Eve celebrations canceled, altered for safety

Local Coronavirus Coverage

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – New Year’s Eve is usually a time of gathering and celebrating the end of one year and the start of another. Festivities to celebrate the occasion differ all across the globe, with some towns ringing in the occasion through annual traditions.

The town of Greeneville is known for its New Year’s Eve ball drop, but amid a pandemic, how can you celebrate when gathering in large groups is strongly discouraged?

Due to CDC guidelines and recommendations from area health departments, a number of New Year’s Eve festivities have been canceled this year, including Greeneville’s celebration.

However, just because the original celebration can’t go on, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for an altered celebration. The Town of Greeneville has announced it will be conducting a Virtual Ball Drop to celebrate New Year’s Eve in 2020.

The switch to a virtual event follows the cancellation of the seventh annual “Midnight On Main celebration” due to concerns related to COVID-19. While the regular festivities are normally held downtown at the intersection of Main and Depot streets, this year’s ball drop will be held at an undisclosed location to prevent a large crowd from attending, according to Amy Rose, the Town’s Public Relations Manager.

For those hoping to watch the virtual ball drop, it will be live-streamed starting at 11:45 p.m. on New Year’s Eve on the Town of Greeneville’s Facebook page. “This year is just different, but we still wanted to provide a celebration while trying to keep everyone safe,” Rose said.

What’s different about this year is the fact that even though festivities are virtual, participation is still being encouraged. The online ceremony will include Mayor W.T. Daniels placing everyone’s New Year’s Resolutions for 2021 and goodbye wishes for 2020 inside the ball before it’s dropped during the official countdown to midnight, Rose said.

To submit your resolutions and goodbye messages, visit www.greenevilletn.gov and click “New Year’s Wishes.” Messages can include your name or remain anonymous. You can also submit handwritten messages in the dropbox outside Town Hall.

Although it’s different, the change is welcomed.

“The beauty in having a Virtual Ball Drop is that it will be streamed worldwide, and we can accept messages from anywhere, not just at the event,” Rose said. “In fact, we might continue accepting online messages for our ball drop ceremony for years to come.”

While some towns and cities have to make alterations to their traditions, other cities, like Kingsport, were hoping to begin new traditions this year, but the coronavirus stopped them in their tracks.

Bob Feagins with the Kingsport Chamber told News Channel 11’s Kelly Grosfield that the city had planned to host a large, regional New Year’s Eve party. City officials had discussed the idea for a year, but unfortunately, it too had to be put on the COVID-19 backburner.

“Certainly anything new we wanted to do, like the New Years Eve party so yes, it was disappointing, especially for events like that where we can all come together with our friends and neighbors and the community and celebrate,” said Kingsport Chamber Exec. Director of Communications, Bob Feagins.

In the fall, the chamber officially decided to cancel any hopes of a celebration this holiday. However, while the city has no plans to ring in the new year, officials hope residents still celebrate safely on their own.

“We hope everyone will be smart and responsible and safe to protect each other,” said Feagins.

While plans changed in 2020, Feagins said there is hope for the future. “Hopefully we can come back together in 2021 and do all those things together again,” he said.

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