BY MICHELLE MERLIN
— TRAVERSE CITY -- Michael Root hopes his fingerless gloves and an on-stage heater will be enough to keep his fingers from freezing to his keyboard tonight at the downtown New Year’s Eve bash.
Root is a member of the five-person band, the Supplementals, that will take the stage for 45 minutes to play some tunes before a giant cherry drops to ring in the New Year.
“We’ll play songs we think will keep people dancing and fun and warm,” Root said.
The fifth annual CherryT Ball Drop is the first to have a full band. The event, which will take place on Front and Park Streets, heralds the new year and features a giant, illuminated cherry that's lowered 115 feet and dangled over the downtown. The event typically attracts thousands of celebrants, and raises money and collects food for local charities.
“The big idea is for karma,” said Christal Wilcox Frost, the event's founder and president. “I think it’s such a wonderful opportunity to be able to end your current year doing something good for the community.”
The event has grown over the past five years and regularly draws more than 10,000 people to downtown Traverse City. Last year between 13,000 and 15,000 people attended, Frost said, including downstaters.
The event will always have a local bent, Frost said. The Supplementals even rewrote late rapper Tupac Shakur's "California Love" to feature Traverse City-based lyrics.
Some downtown businesses take advantage of the traffic and stay open until midnight or later.
“We know a lot of people will be in and out, especially if it’s this cold,” said Jill Beauchamp, the event's coordinator for Horizon Books, which will be open until midnight. “Luckily, we have three floors so there are lots of places for people to be.”
Beauchamp and others said there’s been a noticeable increase in traffic since the CherryT Ball Drop's appearance downtown.
“The ball drop has definitely added a significant amount of business on New Year’s Eve for us,” said Loren Ferrer, manager and chef at Pangea’s Pizza Pub, which will stay open until 11 p.m.
The event was moved this year from Cass Street to Park Street, its original location, because of construction on Cass Street, Frost said.
This year cash donations will go to Goodwill Industries and the Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center, while food donations will go to the Father Fred Foundation.
Money will also go to the Traverse City Rugby Alliance; Benefit for Dan, a group that raises money for Suttons Bay resident Dan Sohasky to fight cancer; and the Small Town Outlaws, the Kalkaska women’s roller derby team. Members of each group are helping set up and clean up the event.
The CherryT Ball Drop, so named to be a play on words with charity, has raised 13,800 pounds of food and $16,200 over the past four years.