A Scene from Last Year's Cherry-T Ball Drop
A Scene from Last Year's Cherry-T Ball Drop
By MIKE NORTON I hope your weekend was a wonderful one. I know ours was -- Christmas Eve mass down the road at St. Joseph's and a sweet, quiet day together at the Norton house in Old Mission. Except that I'm really going to have to go on a diet now! This coming Saturday is New Year's Eve, of course - and an opportunity for even more fun and excitement in downtown Traverse City.  One of the things I truly love about our spirited little town is how eagerly folks here embrace new ideas for getting together and having a good time. A good example of this is the New Year's Eve Cherry-T Ball Drop that's held each Dec. 31 on Front Street near Cass. Two years ago, a group of local residents decided to create a high-energy, family-friendly, New Year's Eve celebration that would benefit downtown businesses and local food banks. The plan: to transform downtown Traverse City into a miniature Times Square where folks could mill around, listen to music and socialize while they waited for the New Year to arrive. And since TC is the Cherry Capital of the World, the countdown to midnight would be accompanied by the lowering of an enormous illuminated cherry. Sometimes I'm a little dense, so at first I didn't understand why it was called a "Cherry-T Ball." (I thought it might have something to do with the tee-ball games my kids used to play.) It's lone of those clever play-on-words things: Cherry-T is supposed to sound like "charity," because a great side benefit of this whole thing is that the only admission charge you pay is some nonperishable food goods or hygiene items to be donated to local food pantries. They call this "partying with a purpose," and it's been hugely successful. Last year's event attracted 5,000 to 8,000 participants and brought in enough food to provide 4,400 meals. When it was discovered early this year, that several thousand dollars had been embezzled from the organization, folks were wondering if the Drop was going to take place at all. Fortunately, the culprit was caught, the money was returned, and this year's event looks like it's going to be bigger and better than ever. In addition to the descent of the Big Cherry, there'll be a DJ with live music, a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter fly-over, "bigger and better fireworks," and several yet-undisclosed surprises. Like many of the best events around here, the Cherry-T Ball Drop wasn't designed specifically to separate tourists from their money, but simply to provide an opportunity for everyone, locals and visitors alike, to enjoy the experience of greeting the New Year together. That doesn't mean that local restaurants, bars and hotels aren't enjoying a little uptick in business as a result of the Drop. Since open containers of alcoholic beverages aren't allowed on the street, nearby taverns are happy to provide a warm place for participants to do a little quaffing, restaurants like Red Ginger are throwing special parties, local stores are staying open later (the folks at KidzArt over on State Street are even providing a place where kids can make their own hats and noisemakers ahead of time) and several hotels are advertising their proximity to the party site to visitors who've heard about it and want to get in on the fun. Want to find out more? Well, for some reason the Cherry-T web site has been down lately, but they've got a nice Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/CherryT-Ball-Drop-New-Years-Eve-Downtown-Traverse-City/195942239217