By MICHELLE MERLIN email@example.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — They didn’t skip the party, but the coldest weather in more than five years prompted many holiday revelers to crowd inside hot spots until right before the stroke of midnight, when they poured onto Front Street to watch the fifth annual CherryT Ball Drop.
Thousands braved single-digit temperatures to watch the giant, illuminated cherry drop from a crane.
“I think people come out for the last half-hour in droves if it’s cold,” said Christal Wilcox Frost, the event’s founder and president. Frost estimated 10,000 people showed up to the New Year’s Eve event by midnight.
Sean Kickbush, the owner of Brew, said customers piled out of his downtown coffeehouse as late as 10 minutes to midnight.
Many people stayed warm in bars, but other flocked to Horizon Books, just down the block from the ball drop site.
“We were packed and everyone seemed to be pretty happy, having a good time,” Jill Beauchamp, the event’s coordinator for Horizon Books, said. “Surprisingly, we actually sold books, too.”
Temperatures as low as 9 degrees felt more like minus-6 degrees, thanks to wind chill, but Munson Medical Center did not treat any cold or hypothermia-related injuries, said Dale Killingbeck, a hospital spokesman.
Temperatures were the coldest they’ve been in the CherryT Ball Drop’s five years, when they never dropped below the mid-teens, experts said.
“The jet stream has been to our south, allowing that colder air to come further south than we’d normally expect,” said Andy Sullivan, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Gaylord.
Cold weather and a strong police presence seem to have made the CherryT Ball Drop a generally quiet affair, at least from a law and order perspective.
“No incidents (were) reported at the CherryT Ball Drop,” said Traverse City police Capt. Brian Heffner.
Those who even briefly braved the cold donated around $7,000 at the event, which is intended to be a charity, as well as a local tradition. About $16,200 was collected in the event’s first four years.
The money goes primarily to Goodwill Industries and the Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center.
The group also collected nonperishable food to give to the Father Fred Foundation.
“People are understanding (that) it’s a party with a purpose,” Frost said.
Staff writer MATT TROUTMAN contributed to this report.