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Frenchtown New Year's Holds Its Own

Jan. 1, 2006 – A 20-foot, 600-pound Walleye dropping from a crane in Port Clinton, Ohio, or the giant crystal ball dropping in Times Square on New Year's Eve may have had something on an almost empty fish trap dropped in Joseph Aubain ballpark at midnight Saturday — but not much.
"Wait until next year," said Allan Richardson, speaking for the Committee for the Betterment of Carenage, the Moby Dick Committee and the Fun Lover's Carnival Troupe which sponsored the event this year.
Not to be outdone by those stateside antics, Richardson noted that this year's empty fish trap has significance: "We didn't drop any fish last year." He then added, "We didn't hold the celebration, so this year we have to bait the trap for next year."
Dressed brightly in a black-and-red top hat, Richardson presided over the teeming crowd, as he has for the past five or so years.
Frenchtown New Year's Eve, since coconuts were first dropped from a fish trap in 2001, has now become local tradition: while the items being dropped have changed with each year, the idea remains the same. This year the pole was gorgeous, beautifully decorated with shining lights shimmering above the ballpark-cum-ballroom.
The event may not have trumped the New York celebration or Ohio's giant plastic Walleye, but in its own way, Frenchtown held its own.
Some Canadian visitors thought so. John Rotsztain, his parents, Fay and Daniel, and brother Michael all stood rooted in the merry crowd, as they joined in the festivities.
"It's great," said Rotsztain. "It's a real community festival, not commercial or expensive. I can't wait for the basket to drop." Fay Rotsztain agreed, "We've never really seen anything like this."
Staying at the Marriott's Frenchman's Reef Beach Resort, Rotsztain and company had been sampling Frenchtown restaurants the night before. That's when they noticed a sign for the event in the local grocery store and decided this was where they would head for New Year's.
Petite Elizabeth "Lellel" Aubain then extended a hand to the Rotsztains for a dance and soon the whole family was swinging to the music of Imaginations Brass, which played until 2006 was well on its way.
"Join hands, shake hands, everyone," commanded Richardson before midnight. "It's New Year's — come dance." And they did.
And then came the moment everyone was waiting for. The baited fish trap dropped at the stroke of midnight. It wasn't exactly empty: it contained four bright red apples, and a blue plastic fish, to signify bait for next year.
Everyone then got in the act — from one-year-old Lismar Jiminez, who danced to her own beat in the center of the parking lot, to a crowd of locals. Included in the festive crowd was Jill Anderson and Scott Metzger; Kathy and Ed Sternberg; Kate Rake; Vince Williams; Ann and Johnny Greaux; Daryl "Mousy" George; Cindy, Tony, Tyra, Richard and C 'Ann Hunt; Romeo Duzant; and Jason Budsan. Good will abounded.
Sen. Lorraine Berry made her annual appearance, torn between many New Year's parties. Her husband, Richard Berry, who heads the Seabreeze band, was playing up on Mafolie. "I have to get up there now," she said with a wave.
Ida White, who has been working for FEMA in Jackson, Miss., had just returned for the holidays. Looking festive in a white tiara and a sparkling red top, she said, "You have no idea how happy I am to be home, to be warm. It's 28 degrees up there." White soon has to go back to Mississippi for another month or so. "Nobody can believe how bad it is up there," she said, solemn for a moment. "There's just no way to explain it." White is working with displaced people in displaced towns. "Towns that are no more," she added somberly.
While folks in Port Clinton were munching from mittened hands on everything from Walleye sandwiches to Walleye cinnamon chips and those in Times Square were shivering and waving at TV cameras, those in Frenchtown enjoyed the warm evening, sauntering to the concession stand where they feasted on traditional treats: ham and sweetbread washed down with champagne.

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