Balloons, bonfires help ring in new year

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 1, 2000

VIDALIA, La. — The year 2000 did not have any trouble finding the Miss-Lou — there were bonfires on the Vidalia riverfront to light the way as part of the area’s first &uot;Balloons and Bonfires&uot;&160;event.

More than 150 people, from families with small children and groups of youth to older couples, gathered on the Mississippi River levee around 6:30 p.m. Friday.

There, they watched as three massive bonfires were lit to celebrate the new year.

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For most, the novelty and family-oriented nature of the event was what brought them there.

&uot;It’s something new to do – that’s why we’re here,&uot;&160;said Ricky Bruce, watching the fires with wife Tracy and sons Tyler and Tucker.

Tyler was there to celebrate the new year and his 12th birthday before going home to enjoy a bonfire and fireworks.

In the minutes before the fires were lit, singers April Creel and Grace Woods, along with the Concordia Community Choir, also entertained the crowd.

And at various times throughout the evening, several multi-colored hot-air balloons were lit along the river, from Broadway Street to the Ramada.

The Natchez Convention and Visitors Bureau approached the Vidalia Chamber of Commerce six months ago about organizing the event, said chamber director Linda Gardner.

&uot;The tradition behind it is that in south Louisiana, they light bonfires at Christmas to light the way for Papa Noel,&uot; also known as Santa Claus, Gardner said.

Vidalia might light bonfires at Christmas instead of New Year’s in upcoming years, she added.

&uot;I just came to see what it was all about,&uot;&160;said Joe Dallalio of Vidalia, watching the glow of the bonfires. Friend Bobbie Comer came to see a sight she saw many times during the 28 years she lived in Lake Charles.