uac122309001.gif Get dressed up, go to dinner, go home (or to a friends house) and await the dropping of the ball in Times Square. For decades this scene is what families in Fayetteville have had to look forward to every New Year’s Eve. And for years, there has been talk that this really needs to change. A town this size and with this many venues surely can offer more to its citizens, young and old, on such a festive and jubilant occasion.

Well, leave it to the folks at the Dogwood Festival to be the fi rst to redefi ne New Year’s Eve for greater Fayetteville. Just like the favorite festival, the inaugural Party in the Park promises to be huge and fun — lots and lots of fun.

“It’s a free event for families and people of all ages,” said Carrie King, Fayetteville Dogwood Festival executive director. “We will have a wing and chili cookoff and there will be a kids area with activities for kids of all ages — craft activities and bounce houses and things like that.”

Its not just local restaurant owners who will be offering up their fi nest chili and wings, but local citizens can also compete for bragging rights to Fayetteville’s Best Chili and/or Wings, as well. King expects some fi ery recipes, especially if the weather is cool that night. They specifi cally chose these foods for their warming potential.

“It is a great way for everybody to keep warm and it will give them something to do,” said King of the contest. “The fun thing about the wing and chili cook-off is that we will have judges and they are celebrity judges. We are going to keep that under wraps for every body to come out and see who they are.”

If chili and wings aren’t your thing, not to worry, there will be food and beverage vendors serving up everything from hot chocolate and hot cider to beer and champagne.

If midnight is too much of a stretch for the little ones, not to worry. There will be an early countdown at 8:45 complete with fi reworks, paper horns and cheers. That way, King fi gures that families will still be able to experience the fun they have planned for attendees, even if they have to cut out early.

“We are definitely catering to the families with children,” said King. “I’ve always noticed that there is nothing to do on New Year’s Eve. We always go to dinner and hang out in the back yard and just kind of wait, and this is something you can bring your kids to and buy some party122309-party-in-park.jpg favors and just hang out and listen to the bands.”

Speaking of bands, local favorites Nantucket and Hot Sauce are going to be rocking the stage in Festival Park throughout the evening with dance tunes and high-energy entertainment.

When the clock strikes midnight, not only will the live feed from Times Square appear on the big screen, but there will also be a local icon dropping from the sky to welcome in 2010. Local artist Greg Hathaway has custom designed a 12 foot dogwood blossom that will “bloom” for the party goers as it descends to greet the new year.

“During the event the petals will be up and it will look like... if you take a dogwood fl ower and lay it fl at it would sort of form a bowl — that is what it will look like,” said Hathaway. “It will be hanging like a big bowl,and the back part of the petals will be painted with butterfl y wings. So during the party it is just going to be this big round bowl that looks like a butterfl y and then as we begin the countdown we will open it up and as we open it up it’ll hang vertical and it will be a dogwood fl ower.”

A staunch supporter of the arts, and a well established artist in his own right, Hathaway is happy for the chance to support this event.

“The fl ower was my idea. I was all for it coming right out of the gate,” said Hathaway. “In fact I’ve been preaching that they needed to do a New Year’s Eve function — I’m really glad they are doing it.”

The party starts at 6:30 p.m. There will be disabled parking available. For more info visit

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