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As Utahns celebrate New Year's, police caution safety



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Team coverageAs Utahns ring in the New Year, the economic downturn appears to be triggering an upswing for hometown celebrations. Tonight, thousands are attending such parties from Salt Lake to St. George.

If you thought an icy economy would turn people all "Bah Humbug!" on New Year's, think again. First Night in Salt Lake reports a projected upswing in the number of revelers -- up maybe 20 percent, with more than 30,000 folks bidding farewell to not-so-great 2008.

As Utahns celebrate New Year's, police caution safety

"It seems that people are really looking for low-cost ways to celebrate. People still want to do something that feels good, do something that's communal, getting out there with their friends and neighbors, and this is actually a good way to do that," said Jason Mathis, executive director of the Downtown Alliance.

If you wanted to ring in 2009 with a wee bit of face paint and animal-shaped balloons, the price is right: $10 for adults, kids under 12 are free.

"I think one of the big things was, obviously, you want to do something the whole family can participate in. Given the economy currently, you want to be concerned about how much money we're spending and getting your best bang for your dollar," Sandy resident Scott Byington said.

Gennaveve Ibarra, who lives in Taylorsville, told us, "Anywhere else you go, it's probably more expensive; you have to pay for food you, have to pay for parking. This way, TRAX is free, admissions free, ice skating is free. It's definitely the way to go tonight."

At the old Union Pacific building, the kids led the way to next year with a Wish Fish. That was followed by the always timeless laser light show and, even though it was actually 6 p.m., a spirited almost-midnight countdown.

South Jordan is hosting an event called Divine '09 tonight. There will be festivals and venues with dinner in honor of South Jordan's 150th birthday. St. George and Provo are also hosting First Night activities.

However and wherever you decide to celebrate the New Year, officials want everyone to get there and home safely. The Salt Lake City Police Department suggests using alternative sources of transportation if you want to drink while participating in the First Night festivities. The First Night button can help you do that.

Until 1 a.m., anyone with a First Night button can ride TRAX for free. Up to four children under the age of 12 can ride for free as well as long as they are with an adult that has a First Night button.

FrontRunner will not be free. However, after 5 p.m. you can take advantage of a family pass, which means two adult and six children under the age of 18 can ride for $16.50. And keep in mind, the trains will stop running at 12:40 a.m.

As Utahns celebrate New Year's, police caution safety

The Salt Lake Police Department expects thousands of people to make their way into downtown for First Night. So to keep everyone safe, the department will be stepping up patrols.

Department spokeswoman Lara Jones said, "In addition to our normal patrol compliment, we will have 22 motor officers out for DUI enforcement starting at 10 p.m. There will be thousands of people converging on downtown Salt Lake for First Night. Some revelers may want to include alcohol, so we just want to be prepared."

Mobile Watch, which is an all-volunteer group, will assist police by patrolling neighborhoods tonight. Last year Salt Lake police made eight DUI arrests during the New Year's activities, and the year before that they made 10.

If you don't have a designated driver tonight, There are a couple of agencies you can call for a ride home:

AAA's Tipsy Tow program

  • Hours: 6 p.m. on New Year's Eve to 6 a.m. on New Year's Day
  • Phone: 800-222-4357 (AAA-HELP)
  • The tow truck driver will tow your car home for free if it's within five miles. For extra miles, the driver will be charged. If there are additional passengers who need a ride, they will be taken to the driver's home as long as there is room for them in the tow truck. You cannot make a reservation.

Speedy Towing

  • Hours: 9 p.m. on New Year's Eve to 6 a.m. on New Year's Day
  • Phone: 801-619-1111
  • The tow truck driver will tow your car home for free if it's within five miles. For extra miles, the driver will be charged. If there are additional passengers who need a ride, they will be taken to the driver's home as long as there is room for them in the tow truck.

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