Eagle Rise rings in 2011
JOE PLASKO/TIMES NEWs Ashley Hartranft and Hayley Martin, both 11, of Tamaqua show off their "2011" glasses at the New Year's Eve Eagle Rise.
If it is New Year's Eve in Tamaqua, then the Eagle will rise.
The 13th Annual New Year's Eve Eagle Rise attracted more than 700 revelers to the gala event, which is held at the ABC Tamaqua High Rise, the tallest structure in Schuylkill County.
Relatively warm temperatures in the low 30's and the lack of precipitation contributed to one of the largest crowds in the history of the Eagle Rise, which is coordinated by the Tamaqua Area Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by the TIMES NEWS.
As has been the past tradition, the event was provided free of charge to the community.
The first ball-rise took place at the high rise in 1998 as part of the borough's Founding Bicentennial celebration.
Frank Fabrizio, Brockton, who sets up the lighting for the event each year, noted that the first five years, a ball drop or rise was utilized at the high rise, modeled after the well-known Times Square New Year's Eve event. Later, the ball was replaced with eagles that flap their wings up the side of the building at 11:59 p.m., lighting the New Year sign at the top at midnight.
The eagle is a mascot for Tamaqua Area High School and is located on the school's crest.
"Last year the eagles came down to the bottom because of high winds," explained Fabrizio. "This year we came out early and put them out in advance."
The 200 block of East Broad Street (US209) is closed off by wooden horses beginning at 10 p.m., and traffic is detoured around the high rise until the Eagle rise is completed.
Disc Jockey Brandon Fritz provided music in front of the high rise, which he has done every year since 2005.
"I've been out here in good times and bad times, weatherwise," said Fritz. "Last year I was set up underneath the STS bus terminal."
A giant 15-foot big screen TV was set up in front of the high rise once again so the crowd could watch Dick Clark's New Year's Rocking Eve with Ryan Seacrest as it was broadcast live from Times Square. Fabrizio said the TV screen was donated by Andy Miller.
"This is probably the best set up we've had with the TV," said Linda Yulanavage, executive director of the Tamaqua Area Chamber of Commerce, as she handed out balloons to the crowd. "The big screen really brings out a lot of people, and we expected a real large crowd because of the weather."
The residents of the high rise held their own New Year's Eve festivities inside in the community room, which was also open to anyone looking to ring in 2011.
"We are grateful that the high rise residents opened up their party to people who showed up outside," said Yulanavage.
The bulk of the Eagle Rise crowd usually shows up between 11:30 and midnight, but by 11:15 there were already about 75 people on the street in front of the high rise.
"This is my first time here," said Julie Swenson, Tamaqua. "We had never come here before and it was warm out tonight. We heard it keeps getting bigger and better every year. We wanted to see the eagles, and this is a nice, Times Square type of event."
There was no shortage of party hats, masks and noisemakers among the crowd as it continued to swell.
'We were here in 2000," said Natasha Rutman of Tamaqua, who was with her 8-year-old daughter, Starr. "It is something local to do."
As midnight came and went, the eagles' high rise flight went off without a hitch.
"The timing on the eagles was perfect," related Yulanavage. "We're starting to see more and more people coming out, and everyone is having a good time. They are coming earlier and staying out later.
"This is a good family-oriented event, and the nice thing is, we don't have a lot of problems. It's a real family affair."