Up to 15,000 people will make Brown’s Island the place to be this New Year’s Eve.
R. Anthony Harris had the best view in Richmond on New Year’s Eve 2007.
“I remember being on top of The Byrd with my good friend Ian Graham, who has passed away, and him taking pictures and looking out and saying, ‘Wow. There’s a real community here. There’s something here in Richmond to build on,'” Harris said.
What the two saw that night was what police estimated to be roughly 24,000 people crowded into Carytown. “I was really humbled that night when the ball dropped,” Harris told Style Weekly in 2007. “I looked around and saw old white people, old black people, college kids, families; everyone you can imagine, smiling and celebrating together. It was something special.”
He hopes to see something special again this New Year’s Eve when he brings RVA NYE 2014 to Brown’s Island.
Harris never saw himself an event planner a decade ago. The founder of RVA Magazine, which he created to showcase Richmond’s arts and culture, he forayed into event planning with the first Carytown New Year’s Eve event in 2006. “We [at RVA Magazine] thought it would be fun to do holidays, and no one happened to be doing New Year’s,” he said.
With the backing of New York Deli owner Demetrios Tsiptsis and a dropping ball care of Byrd general manager Todd Schall-Vess, the first event–dedicated to the Harvey family, who earlier that year were murdered in their home–drew roughly 8,000 people. “That was the biggest thing I had personally ever worked on,” Harris said. “There were all these people dancing in the streets. It was beyond just an event for me, and I think it affected a lot of people in the community in a positive way.”
Harris and others started planning for the 2007 event weeks later. “As we started planning it, it became very apparent that we were going to have a huge crowd,” he said. 24,000 turned up.
Beginning in 2008, the Carytown Merchant’s Association (CMA) took over NYE. The last ball dropped in 2012, as the CMA abruptly ended the event in the weeks leading up to the end of 2013.
Harris came back into the planning fray to salvage the event at the last minute. “We still wanted to do the ball somewhere, so we started calling around, trying to find places for it to go,” he said. “Eventually it was at Hardywood.”
With the CMA uninterested in having NYE return, Harris began scouting other locations for the event earlier this year. He came back to the event after seven years because he thinks the city should have it. “I think New Year’s really has a special place in terms of events because it’s the first event of the year,” he said. “It’s time for people to think about the past year, all the things they went through, and to get off on the right foot for next year. And if we can all come together as a community, regardless of where you are in life, for one night, we can appreciate each other…and hopefully 2015 is amazing.”
No better way to bring people together than to herd them onto an island, which is what RVA NYE 2014 planners have done by staging it on Brown’s Island. “So far I’ve gotten nothing but support from Venture Richmond [who manages the island] and the City,” Harris said. “I think we have a very solid plan for layout, for dealing with traffic, security, all of those things.”
The free event will feature DJs, performers, and other entertainment, as well as a new “ball” (actually a square) with four video panels that’ll coordinate imagery with the stage. “The ball will be 50 feet in the air, so you’ll be able to see it well into Oregon Hill, and it’s going to be very bright,” Harris said.
Brown’s Island holds roughly 15,000 people, and Harris anticipates 10,000 at the event. And while RVA NYE is free, there are three limited VIP packages that provide buyers with tents, privileged parking, complimentary drinks, better views, etc., while helping organizers cover production costs.
Despite not having a Brown’s Island event under his belt yet, Harris is optimistic about RVA NYE. “I’m hoping it becomes an official City event…something that the City is really proud of,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ll be running it forever, but I do think it really has a chance to be there for a long time, and I think it’s needed.”
RVA NYE 2014 takes place on Brown’s Island and starts at 7:00 PM.