Local youngsters dance into 2018

The celebratory Noon Year's Eve party was less crowded but still loud, and it gave youngsters a great dance floor.

No one seemed to mind the few changes the village of Homewood made to the annual event at the village auditorium that lets young and old ring in the new year.  

Village officials decided to limit attendance this year to Homewood residents after the large crowd at last year's event triggered safety concerns.

The village issued 300 free golden tickets, reminiscent of the Golden Tickets in two movies based on Roald Dahl's book, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."

Homewood Events Manager Allisa Opyd said village staff and residents collaborated to help get nearly everyone present into the event. 

A number of residents were using social media seeking tickets or hoping to find recipients for unneeded tickets. In addition, some residents showed up at the event to see if anyone could use their tickets and a number of non-ticketed attendees were grateful for the willingness to share.

"It was the Homewood spirit shining through," ticket-taker Troy O'Quin said.

In the end, everyone who waited was able to get in, Opyd said. Staff was happy the new policy worked.

Once in, families were able to join a dance party. The village staff decided to eliminate the hired entertainers of years past and go with a DJ who provided music for dancing prior to the noon balloon drop.

"We noticed (in 2017) so many families were out on the floor dancing after the balloon drop," Opyd said. "So this year we thought we would have a family dance party."

With fewer people in attendance, there was room to dance, and kids, especially, were taking advantage of the room to move.

Mike and Alison Lucas watched from the stands as their son, Gehrig, 8, showed off his dance steps. The change in programming suited him, they said.

"He loves to dance," Mike said. The family has been attending the annual event for eight years. "Sometimes a change of pace is nice."

Kalie Ebel danced with her daughter, Valerie Ebel, almost 6. She said the event is a family tradition and the two were having fun.

"Valerie is having the best time," she said. 

In spite of the smaller crowd, the event still generated a good volume. In addition to the dance music, village Events Coordinator Sarah Meeks handed out noisemakers just before the balloon drop. They worked.

Opyd thanked White Castle and Comcast for co-sponsoring the event and the village Community Relations Committee for help organizing and running the event. 

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A great community deserves a great newspaper. The HF Chronicle was created in June 2014 as an online publication. In December 2015 we began monthly print publication, too. Our mission is to chronicle the life of our community — news by, for, and about the people of Homewood and Flossmoor, Illinois.

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