Angelenos are often left to applaud New York City's iconic New Year's Eve drop of the ball in Times Square, which remains the quintessential example of a centralized city celebration. Los Angeles notoriously remains the fragmented and polycentric city that does not conjure up notions of an established public New Year's Eve bash.
Grand Park's inaugural New Year's Eve event, though, left many to imagine a genuine Los Angeles-centric celebration that has the potential to become as iconic as Times Square, or the grand fireworks displays in London or Dubai.
Along with tens of thousands of attendees that packed Grand Park last Tuesday night, I came to ring in 2014 with friends. In a year of many firsts since the park first opened in 2012, this was its inaugural New Year's Eve festivity and it presented a chance to be part of L.A. history.
As an array of engaging lights and digital projections assaulted the senses, the first impression that dawned upon me as I emerged from the Metro Red Line Civic Center station was the throngs of revelers that represented multiethnic and multicultural Los Angeles. The crowd was not just the new DTLA professional class that has moved into the area, or the creative class that crowd Spring Street's Art Walk. They appeared to be from the many walks of life in all of L.A. The diversity was enhanced by a healthy dose of families with their children, who created a sense that Grand Park was the elusive "public space" that L.A. often has a hard time pinning down, with any of its anointed public parks.
Much has been said of Downtown L.A.'s renaissance in the past 15 years. But there was an extra engaging aspect to Grand Park's investment in programming the space to light up the night and just about everything surrounding the park. Silver Lake resident Russell Horning, who came to celebrate, stated that the space was engaging because of the "crowds, digital visions, and transit access."
The highlight of the digital visions was the dynamic 3-D projections that illuminated the 22 floors of City Hall with a multitude of images that included palm trees, waves, fish, spotlights, a clock, and "NYELA," for "New Year's Eve Los Angeles." The new year was brought in with a countdown that culminated with an image of the four-digit year breaking through a crumbling City Hall edifice, inspiring the hoards of people to go wild and collectively ring in the New Year.
An especially engaging aspect of the programmed space was the series of installations that created photo opportunities for the many attendees. The historic Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain by the Grand Avenue park entrance was the most popular, but attendees also took pictures with multiple L.A. 2014 installations and with a set of props that were digitally projected as a slideshow on the County Hall of Records building that flank the park.
The inaugural event had room for improvement as well. The park reached capacity quickly and many were turned away, causing some crowds to become restless and attempt to crash the gates. Lines were endless for the food trucks, beer, and photo
activities. To increase an even more L.A. feel to the food vending, there could have been an initiative to create intentional space reserved for food vendor carts and taco trucks that dot the landscape of everyday L.A., instead of the gourmet food trucks that often receive the privilege to post up at large public events such as Grand Park NYELA.
Regardless, Grand Park, L.A. County, city, and organizers are deserving of a round of applause for a memorable inaugural production. Los Angeles' continued evolution into a global city is only expedited with such an event that could potentially become an iconic event, spread across global media channels, similar to the images of other city celebrations ingrained in our consciousness.
Photos: George Villanueva