Richmond will ring in 2015 in a new way, with a splashy visual effect dropping — and rising — from 54 feet on Brown’s Island. It uses a mobile hydraulic system, high-definition screens and video of the crowd to complete the effect.
“We were talking about the ball,” says sponsor Jon Sachs of SoundLab, and whether it would rise or drop. “I said, ‘I can make it do both.’ It’s a visionary thing.”
The ring is a cylinder of video screens, which will display feeds from the crowd, the DJ and messages throughout the evening, and will sit atop a pole grounded by 4,000 pounds of concrete. Just before midnight, a cube — also displaying video screens — will begin to rise while the ring lowers, exchanging places. The two elements will weigh approximately 5,200 pounds, Sachs says. Six to eight people will construct it the day before and take it down the first day of the year.
“We wanted to bring something unique to Richmond,” Sachs notes. He and event planner R. Anthony Harris, who returns to the New Year’s Eve business after a seven-year break, were securing a building permit from the city.
Harris, the publisher of RVA Magazine, was 28 when he worked with other Richmonders to start a New Year’s party in Carytown in 2006. It was a huge success, beyond what he expected. The effort continued through 2012, although Harris’ involvement ended in 2007.
During the first year, an estimated 24,000 people came to Carytown to watch the ball rise at the Byrd Theatre. Crowds returned until 2013, when the Carytown Merchants Association canceled the event, saying the previous year’s 35,000 attendees were too many for the neighborhood to handle. Mere weeks before the end of the year, the party found a home at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery.
For this year’s celebration on Brown’s Island, the display will be visible from Oregon Hill, Harris says. Light Action Productions and an aluminum manufacturer in Newport News also are working on the structure.
“It will be incredibly bright,” Harris says. Along with the lights, the free event will include a lineup of DJs, who will be announced soon, and the singing of “Auld Lang Syne” at midnight. Style columnist Jack Lauterback and Melissa Chase, who co-host a morning radio show on 103.7 Play, will serve as emcees, and the festivities will air on Comcast. At the moment, Harris notes, “we’re right on the tail end of logistics,” with parking, shuttles and media sponsors.
“I feel like the momentum for this thing grows every day,” Harris says. “I hope it becomes a traditional thing.”
Although most people will attend free, there are VIP tickets for sale. Cabanas for 20 people cost $1,500 and other tickets go for $75 and $100, providing access to heated tents, food and drinks. Proceeds will go to the Grover Gibson Soccer Foundation, a training facility in Fredericksburg for elite soccer players.
As for the general admission crowd, there will be beer and wine for sale on the island — you can’t bring your own. Harris expects about 10,000 people to show up, and he encourages attendees 18 or older.
As for the biggest uncertainty, the weather, Harris and his fellow planners Hayden Fisher, Jimmy Budd and Sachs are hoping it will work out. “All you can do is put it together and pray it doesn’t ice,” Harris says, laughing.
RVA NYE 2015 will run from 7 p.m. to 12:15 a.m. on Brown’s Island. For information or to purchase VIP tickets, go to rvanye.co.