A child reaches out to touch the lighted ball that was dropped in Harmony on Monday to announce the arrival of New Year's Day in Germany. The festivities were part of the borough's annual Silvester celebration.
HARMONY — Thousands of holiday revelers rang in the new year a bit earlier than the rest of us Monday during the family-friendly Silvester celebration here. The annual event commemorates the town's German heritage and included a ball-dropping ceremony at 6 p.m. followed by fireworks. The event coincides with the clock striking midnight in Germany, which is six hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. People packed the streets and braved ice, snow and frigid wind as they counted down in English and German as the ball dropped from a pole in the center of the borough. This year's version of Silvester started off as always with a 5K run/walk at 3 p.m. Ben Nickel, a Seneca Valley High School senior, was one of the hundreds of runners warming up in the cold before the race. He said he's competed in three prior Silvester races but couldn't remember one quite as cold as Monday. But he wasn't about to let the weather bring down his spirits. “It's always great every New Year's coming down here and watching the ball drop,” said Ben of Cranberry Township. “And then we go home and celebrate our own New Year's.” Ben lined up with a mass of other runners as his father Jim, a Seneca Valley School Board member, served as master of ceremonies for the run. The Silvester event has always attracted families since its inception in 2007, and this year was no different. Maria Jeanette came from Plum in Allegheny County to participate in the race. By doing so, she joined her two sisters, her son, a cousin and a brother-in-law. All of the sisters graduated from Seneca Valley, and all are scattered across the region. But the Silvester event, and the race in particular, served as an excuse to get together for the holiday.
“Peer pressure from my sisters,” Jeanette said, explaining why she decided to run the race. “We signed up months ago when it sounded like a good idea.” Further down the street in the Historic Harmony Museum, Rita Lane of Butler and Maureen Salmen of New Castle waited patiently for small drops of molten lead to cool. Those molten drops would supposedly offer the women clues for what's in stake for the coming year. The process is called bleigeissen and is another German tradition. “I think mine said there's another grandchild on the way,” Salmen said with a laugh. “And also that I won't finish last in the race.” Further down Mercer Street, the smell of pork and sauerkraut wafted out of the museum's Stewart Hall as revelers packed in for a traditional New Year's Eve meal. Historic Harmony President John Ruch stood outside the hall with a smile, saying the cold and snowy weather finally brought the right conditions to the event. He applauded borough officials for orchestrating another successful Silvester celebration. He wasn't sure how many people turned out for this event, but added that more than 4,000 came a year ago. “People love this because it's so different,” Ruch said. “It ends early so families can get home and get off the roads. But it's also good for other people who leave here and then do their normal New Year's Eve events.”
Spectators watch fireworks Monday evening in Harmony during the borough?s annual Silvester celebration.
DAVE PRELOSKY/CRANBERRY EAGLE