Come out and celebrate this New Year’s Eve in downtown Gainesville, Florida. The City of Gainesville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department is expanding your downtown New Year’s Eve experience with a grand celebration in three locations. All are free and open to the public, so there is something for everyone this year!
The evening begins at Depot Park, located at 200 SE Depot Ave. At 5 p.m., bring blankets and chairs and find a spot in the park to enjoy the last sunset of 2017 while DJ Billy Beats hosts a family-friendly dance party on the main stage. At 6:30 p.m., the fun continues in Depot Park with “Sparks in the Park,” a musically choreographed fireworks show over the main pond. Following the fireworks display, guests are invited to “GLOW Downtown,” where the sidewalks connecting Depot Park to Bo Diddley Plaza will be lined with glowing luminaries.
The Downtown Countdown begins at 9 p.m., and continues until midnight in Bo Diddley Plaza. It features two bands and a countdown to midnight to ring in 2018 with the sounds of noisemakers provided free to the audience. Headlining this experience are the Savants of Soul (Motown, soul, R&B), with The Duppies (ska, reggae) as the opening band. Revelers are encouraged to bring chairs or blankets to the plaza for seating.
The Savants of Soul are a nine-piece, Motown soul band built on a foundation of blues, soul, jazz, rock ’n’ roll, punk and ska. In 2015, the band released the EP “Sunday Best,” which followed the release of 2014's full-length LP “Downtown Sound.” The band performed at the Red Gorilla Festival at South by Southwest in 2017, and they have shared the stage with acts such as Charles Bradley, The Original Wailers, Thomas Wynn & The Believers and Selwyn Birchwood.
The Savants of Soul are Justin McKenzie (lead vocals), Austin Van Wie (guitar), John Gray Shermyen (bass), Zack Emerson (keyboards), Alex Klausner (drums), Mandy Moo (trumpet/vocals), Jason Beverung (trombone), Jordan Jones (tenor saxophone) and Ray Vigil (baritone saxophone).
The Duppies are a high-powered, seven-piece band formed in Gainesville in 2004. Since that time, this popular ska, rocksteady and reggae band has received the attention of audiences beyond the local scene by touring throughout the United States. Band members include The Duppies founder, Brian Hiebel (lead vocals/percussion), Tony Farah (bass), Ryan Bonner (keyboards), Daniel Kinney (drums), Chris Chiares (guitar) and Jose Pineiro (sax/backing vocals).
The band’s name is taken from the Jamaican word duppy, which in Jamaican folklore is described as “an unruly spirit risen from a consecrated grave; a ghost; a poltergeist.” The Duppies say their music has been known to send audiences into “frenetic dancing spasms that can only be described as musical convulsions of the soul.”
The Downtown Countdown is produced by the City of Gainesville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department, and is funded in part by grants from Culture Builds Florida and Visit Gainesville. Downtown Countdown is located at the Bo Diddley Plaza, 111 E. University Ave. in downtown Gainesville. Revelers are encouraged to bring chairs or blankets for seating. For general information, contact Russell Etling, cultural affairs manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 352-393-8532. For more information about this event, please contact David Ballard at email@example.com or 352-393-8746.