■ By Rusty Strait / Senior Reporter
December 31, 2016 started out like most of my New Year’s Eves. From 6 p. m. to 9 p.m. I watched Anderson Cooper and Cathy Griffin do their usual capers for the 10th year in a row. Then the ball fell and 2016 was gone. Just like that there was a brand new baby called 2017.
In the past few years, I’d have a bottle or two of beer and by 10 or 11 p.m. be somewhere in dreamland. But not this year. The Chronicle thought it would be nice to cover some of the New Year’s Eve parties in town; I chose The Derby Bar and Grille.
All fancied up — tux, hat and dancing shoes, I closed and locked the front door. To my great surprise, what I thought was neighbors with a boom-box turned out to be a cloudburst that would have given Noah pause to reflect.
I stepped down to my patio and found myself ankle-deep in swirling waters. Seems like yesterday when my thoughts were of drought and would it ever end. Wading down the driveway to my car I encountered what seemed to be the Ohio River flowing down Mayberry Avenue. On the west side of town it connected with the Mississippi at Kirby Street. Finally, I pulled into the parking lot at The Derby. To my good fortune there was a spot directly in front of the entrance, so I survived drowning from the car to the door.
The Derby’s genial host, Jessie Vivanco and his trademark Cossack beard, welcomed me inside.
Videos were booming from eight or nine TV’s hanging from the ceiling, the room was aglow with lights and New Year’s Eve apparatus and cheers. The waitresses were busy mixing drinks and dispensing brews to about 20 revelers to begin the evening on an early note. It was happy times, so let the floods roll on. We were safe and finally dry.
The rains continued. That didn’t stop those who wanted to celebrate the coming New Year. By 10:30 p.m. there was a pretty good crowd. Beer pong was going full blast, everybody seemed happy and ready to whoop and holler at midnight. Folks were starting to occupy the dance floor and the music was right for tripping the light fantastic.
Newly engaged Hemet High School JV Soccer Coach Tanner Shubin and his fiancé, Sofia Vivanco, seemed to enjoy their seclusion racking up balls at a corner pool table.
Ashleigh and Jacquie were like busy bees serving beverages while Olivia hurried out food from the kitchen to the hungry and thirsty patrons who did not seem to mind at all when Mariah Carey’s disastrous electronic breakdown preceded Ryan Seacrest’s countdown to 2017.
It was indeed a Happy New Year to the happy group of friendly folks who “Auld Lang Syne’d” in January 1, 2017.
Outside the rain had toned down to a drizzle. On my way home down Florida Avenue I passed two cars going the other way and not a cop car in sight. Santa must have been smiling down and paraphrasing his usual goodbye: Happy New Year to all and to all a goodnight. firstname.lastname@example.org