Square gets ready for the holiday hustle
Expect fireworks, a sparkly ball and disco at New Year's Eve bash
If you're looking for trouble tonight, you'd best stay away from downtown Portland and Pioneer Courthouse Square.
There's a party in the square again for New Year's Eve, and it's planned as a family-friendly, disco-dancing, fireworks-infused, alcohol-free, countdown-to-midnight year-end celebration.
And it's free.
Troublemakers? Not if officials from Pioneer Courthouse Square have anything to do with it. The neighborhood will be thick with police and private security officers.
The security force will shut down traffic and conduct a full sweep of an area nine blocks square around Pioneer Courthouse Square before the gates open at 8 tonight.
'The goal here is a family-oriented event,' said Sarabeth Rees, spokeswoman for the square. 'We've been working very hard to make sure it's a very safe and secure environment. This is for all ages.'
Rees said 10,000 people might show up tonight, which would be a good crowd but still well short of the estimated 50,000 who turned out for New Year's Eve 1999.
There was no party in 2000, and gangs of angry youths smashed windows in a rampage through downtown. The city turned over last year's party to Entercom Communications Corp., the operator of seven local radio stations, and it came off without any reports of crime.
This year, the event is being staged by Pioneer Courthouse Square. Entertainment will be provided by Hit Explosion, a cover band that plays disco tunes from the 1970s.
'Disco appeals to everybody, and this band is a riot,' Rees said. 'They play songs everybody knows, and we hope to see everybody out here having a good time.'
Security will be tight. At 4 p.m., parking will be banned on Southwest Sixth Avenue, Broadway and Park Avenue between Alder and Taylor streets. At 6 p.m., barricades go up and police will close the nine-block area and begin the security sweep.
Expect a thorough security check at the gates, similar to what you might find at a major sporting event or concert. Weapons, alcohol, animals, sound-producing equipment, signs, fireworks, backpacks, sleeping bags, furniture, large personal items and powdery substances of any kind are all forbidden.
Food and beverages will be available.
The band will start at 9 p.m. and play until minutes before midnight, just in time for the countdown to midnight, fireworks and dropping of a sparkly ball marking the start of 2003 and the end of the party.
Sponsors include KGW (8), KINK (102 FM), the Oregon Restaurant Association, the Portland Business Alliance, the Portland Tribune and Volkswagen.
TriMet, which is offering free rides on New Year's Eve as usual, will close the Pioneer Courthouse Square light-rail stops from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Wednesday to make way for the party.
Trains, however, will crawl past the square if the crowds are light enough to allow safe passage. Otherwise, buses will shuttle MAX passengers past the square. Officials do not expect serious disruptions in bus service.