Originally created 12/31/98

Augustans prepare for celebration



Tonight is the final dress rehearsal before the biggest party of the millennium -- New Year's Eve 1999.

And Augustans have myriad ways to celebrate the final evening of 1998 and the dawn of 1999.

Some will catch a Lynx hockey game, then chill out with the team. Others are partying with friends and family. The milder crowd will spend the evening at church. And at least nine Georgia couples will exchange vows.

Rudy Brostrom of Gazebo Weddings in North Augusta has nine weddings planned, maybe 10, beginning as early as 10 a.m. today.

This is the busiest time of year for her, besides Valentine's Day, she said.

Many married couples, like Lynn and Walter Thompson of North Augusta, will ring in the new year with less fanfare. But they'll be together.

The Thompsons have resigned themselves to a cozy dinner with some friends.

"We'll have some really nice dinner with some friends and then sit by the fire for a while," Mrs. Thompson said. "I'd much rather sit by the fire and stay safe."

Josh Price also wants to stay safe -- and stay off the roads -- on New Year's Eve.

Mr. Price is holding a party at his house for 10 friends. The party crowd will sample a alcoholic spirits, and they'll watch Dick Clark host New Year's festivities in New York's Times Square.

"You gotta watch the ball. That's the given," Mr. Price said.

At the stroke of midnight, Mr. Price and his friends will pop the cork on a bottle of champagne and sip the bubbly.

"That's a tradition thing," he said.

Normally, Sgt. Joseph Pagano and his wife, Shannon, hold a New Year's Eve party. But they are foregoing the hassles of hosting.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Paganos purchased tickets for the Augusta Lynx's New Year's bash.

"We want to do something cool," said Sgt. Pagano, who should get his wish watching the Lynx battle the Florida Everblades at the chilly Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center.

After the game, the Paganos will head to the Lynx Den to schmooze with the players, team staff and about 300 other fans.

The Paganos are nouveau hockey fans and plan to get player autographs for their nephews.

"We went to the first game, the inaugural game, and watched them whoop up and we really enjoyed it," Sgt. Pagano said.

On Wednesday, about 200 of 300 tickets had been sold for the after-game party, Lynx officials said.

The tickets, which are $25 per person, include a bottle of champagne, a chance to mingle with players and entertainment by Playback. Admission to the game is not included.

The Columbia County Recreation Department also is ready to start the new year off with a bang, holding a party tonight at Patriots Park that will include a $5,000 fireworks display.

"It's a family night," said Bobby Waters, Recreation Advisory Board chairman. "We want families to have an opportunity to have a place to go that's alcohol-free, where it cost nothing and they can just come out and enjoy."

Patriots Park, located off Columbia Road, will open at 9 p.m., and the Fantasy in the Sky fireworks display begins at midnight.

Meanwhile, it will be a quiet, reverent New Year's Eve for Paul Reeves, who won't spend his holiday reveling and drinking alcohol.

The Augusta man will attend services at St. Paul Baptist Church so he can thank God for last year's blessings and pray for more blessings in 1999.

"I'm just thankful for making it another year," said Mr. Reeves, who also will say prayers who friends and family members who died in the past year.

John Willie Walker Jr., who works for the city, also is skipping traditional holiday parties for a quiet evening with family.

Mr. Walker said he will spend his New Year's Eve with a sick relative and try to get a jump start on his resolutions.

"I'm going to try to be a better person than I have been and pray a little more harder," he said.

Lonnie Owens' first resolution for 1999 is to stay awake long enough to say goodbye to 1998.

"Not by design, the last two years I was asleep by 12," said Mr. Owens, whose job with the U.S. Postal Service often requires him to be awake early.

Mr. Owens is invited to a house party tonight at the home of his in-laws in Clearwater, S.C.

"I'm definitely going to be awake on this one," he said.

Staff Writers Chasiti Kirkland, Melissa Hall and Jason Smith contributed to this article.

Amy Joyner can be reached at (706) 823-3339 or amyjoyn@augustachronicle.com.