Flagstaff bids adieu to decade with pinecone drop

The Lumberjack Fireworks launch behind the Babbitt building during the 2010 New Years celebration in downtown Flagstaff. 

A sea of residents and students alike swarm, sway and shiver in the streets of downtown Flagstaff, shouting and cheering with 30 seconds left on the illuminated red neon clock.

The sporadic flashes from the digital cameras paled in comparison to the Weatherford Hotel’s decorations, including icicle lights and a 60-foot tin pinecone draped in teal and white LED lights, which dangled over the heads of hundreds, maybe even thousands, of eager attendees of the New Year’s Eve block party.

Before 1999, when the first pinecone dropped, residents had one option to celebrate the new year: Wander the bars and drink the previous year away. To celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the Weatherford Hotel’s opening, the owners thought it would be appropriate to begin dropping giant pinecones on New Year’s Eve. They chose a pinecone because Flagstaff is located in the largest ponderosa pine forest in the world.

A decade later, on Dec. 31, 2009, the countdown continues — 20, 15, now 10 seconds left — downtown’s intricately blended atmosphere of indistinguishable noise and bright spotlights heightens as the crowd impatiently counts down the last 10 seconds.

The pinecone slowly inches closer and closer to the compacted mass of beanie-covered heads below with every second that passes. Three … two … one, a joyful, climactic riot breaks out as everyone cheers and applauds wildly while fireworks explode above them. 2010 is finally here.

Sam Green, one of the proprietors of the Weatherford Hotel, said she hopes everyone enjoyed their New Year’s celebration downtown.

“I just hope everyone had a great time,” Green said. “I hope that they appreciate what we do for the community. It has taken a lot of money, time and energy.”

The cheering seemed to translate almost as a sigh of relief, a good riddance to a year that seemed to crawl and drag by. With the downturn of the economy and its effects on the universities and unemployment rate, we have seen better times.

But at the Pinecone Drop, those effects remain unseen.

We hope for a turnaround, a better year than the last; we make resolutions we hope to actually keep by making wiser decisions.

Ellen Bennett, a junior environmental studies major, said her resolution is to refrain from becoming an alcoholic.

“Now that I’m 21, I don’t want to drink my face off,” Bennett said. “I want to send a good message to the kids: Don’t drive drunk, kids.”

Frank Brenneman, a junior electronic media and film major, said his New Year’s resolutions involve fulfilling personal goals.

“I want to make more films this year, but before I can do that, I need to be able to afford a camera,” Brenneman said. “I also want to be more organized when it comes to my classes.”

So, let’s raise a glass — yes, even two weeks later — and toast to a year that I’m sure we all hope will be better than the last.

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