Enormous Turnout for New Year's Eve at Pier Park

Definitely smashing the turnout record number from last year, this year’s New Year’s Eve celebration at Pier Park far exceeded expectations for success.  Last year’s event was immense, but this year the added elements brought out crowds by the thousands.  All through the night, we were continually amazed by the shear numbers of people that were everywhere.

Tons of prizes were given out with lines at the Southwest Airlines tent at one time stretching almost right up to the front doors of The Grand (the tent location was in the “promo area” in front of Starbucks).  Speaking of lines, at one point, the line coming out of Starbucks stretched all the way to the street.  I did hear it remarked however that many were glad that more than just two were working this year.  I know that many shops and restaurants were much better prepared this year after experiencing the success of last year’s beach ball drop.

Most of the day at Pier Park on the 31st, there were decent crowds walking, shopping and eating at Pier Park.  The event started officially at 5:30 pm, but people found reason to hang anyway at arguably one of the most attractive gathering spots in Northwest Florida.  When 5:30 pm came, the parking lots began to fill and the closed streets  had people walking all over.

Last year, during the “Family Celebration” time, there was tons of activities for the kids.  This year was the same in that there were bounce houses, stilt walkers, balloon artists and a few great bands to listen to.  There was one huge difference in the way the “Family Celebration” time ended however in that there was a countdown, fireworks and 7,000 inflated Southwest Airlines beach balls were dropped on a gigantic crowd of people that literally filled the main street of Pier Park in the Boardwalk Area.

When 9 pm came around, the Family Celebration time was over and the “Countdown Celebration” began with a local band going on the big stage, called Nothing Short of Pure.  They combined a new age punk sound with a little Sublime to really light up the audience.  Those of you that were there know that the huge stage set up in the round about area was also the other large defining difference between this year and last.  Last year there were several smaller bands entertaining the crowds throughout the property, this year they had the same with the exception of a larger band playing on a huge stage with the performances being projected on huge screens on either side.

The “headline” act was Vertical Horizon, who had hits in the 90’s such as Everything You Want and You’re a God and were promoting a new album now called Burning the Days.  They put on a very energetic performance until the main countdown, then continued after the midnight fireworks calmed.

The midnight beach ball drop seemed to go off without a hitch in that the 800 lbs LED-lit Beach Ball was lowered in sync with the countdown to just above the tops of the palm trees that are arranged in the round about in front of The Grand Movie Theatre.  When the ball hit the palm leaves, the fireworks went off right on time.  Last year the time seemed just a little off, but this year the Pier Park team seemed to have everything in perfect sync.

All and all, the night was a huge success and tons of fun for Panama City Beach.  But the pictures speak so much louder than words for the event.

12 thoughts on “Enormous Turnout for New Year's Eve at Pier Park

  1. I was there with my family and we had a great time. We arrived a little late to get close enough for the ball drop so as we were working our way towards it, after about 1/2 were already dropped, a guy asked my daughter if she had one, and since she never, he gave her one of the two he had. A very nice gesture indeed. After a few beer and walking around we were treated to a spectular fireworks show.

    All in all, we had a great time!!


  2. Awesome time. Great planning and setup. Now if they can figure out how to release all those beachballs as planned everything will be perfect. I was a little disappointed with the “adults” pushing to get a beachball. Lots of kids…that’s who the event was for…be careful and courteous please.


  3. Looks and sounds awesome! We weren’t here this year, but will be, for sure, next year! Nice to have such a celebration right here in our own backyard.


  4. My son and I had a great time. The only flaw was the beach ball drop for the kids. Too many adults pushing and shoving. The kids were so much better behaved! But the entire event was wonderful and classy and Pier Park officials did an awesome job.


  5. We were there and had a great time. We had a wonderful dinner at Boars Head and after dinner we went to Pier Park. Around 10:30pm. Found a good parking space and walked right up to the front and enjoyed the band and the drop and of course the fireworks. It was a wonderful NY Eve and we will be there again next year for sure. Probably do the same thing with dinner at 9PM.


  6. Came from Louisville, Ky with the family and had a great time, Their problem with the ball drop made for an amusing evening. My only negative comment would be the price of the rides. $10.00 for a short bungy jump is way too strong. Instead of the sponsor (Southwest) paying for 7000 beach balls, they should have paid for the amusment rides making it more affordable for the families. Will be back next year for sure. Hopefully on a Southwest Jet!!!


  7. I really enjoyed the great pictures and description of New Year’s Eve at the beach.
    We loved it last year but could not attend the 2nd annual beach ball drop. We’ll be there next year for sure!
    Thanks Jason!


  8. Wish I could have come down for that event too! Was loving the idea of being able to “fly” Southwest to spend long week-ends next year, but since they didn’t choose the ‘ville, I guess I’ll never get to take long week-ends until I retire! Bummer!!!! Closest place for us to catch a flight would be Nashville, and that ends up taking about six hours from door to door. We can drive in 10, so why spend the cash.


  9. We had a great time until the point of the beach ball drop. It is no exageration to say that it became dangerous at that point for children in the crowd. Our 5 year old got pushed and I was knocked down to my knees as adults and teenagers surged for the beach balls. The drop was supposed to be for the children, not for adults to grab 3 and 4 for themselves while little kids got none. My husband was in another area for the drop with our 2 year old and said the situation was the same. They need to figure out a safe way to do this and make sure it is just the kids getting the balls. I do have to say that prior to this, the event was fun though we thought the prices for the rides were ridiculously high.


  10. I was excited to finally be able to do something for New Year’s Eve seeing as how my finacee is always working on that day. We decided to head to pier park early and spend the whole day shopping with our kids and enjoying the day. The all day armbands for the jumpers were great and a very reasonable price. i thought that the other activities should have been five dollars as well, with all the people that showed, surely five dollars would have brought in a great deal of money. even with that we were having a great time until the beach ball drop. This event was supposed to be for kids not for drunken teenagers and adults trampling all over children to get hands full of 75 cent beach balls. my five year old and 3 yr old were trampled on and disappointed because they couldnt get any. it should be made clear that only kids can step out into the street and get the beach balls and maybe designate areas per age and also testthe theory of the nets. All in all we will return hoping to exceed this year’s experience.


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