Revelers Ring In New Year With Peace, 'Miracles'


Carol Longacre, department clerk with the Payson Fire Department and Town Clerk Silvia Smith, were at the phones at Town Hall New Year's Eve.

"Nothing happened," Longacre said Monday. "It was very quiet -- it was nice."

Few cars were on the streets.

Town Manager Rich Underkofler was on call as a designated driver. "I got zippo calls," he said Monday, "but that may mean that people had their own designated drivers."

Town officials had set up an emergency operations center in the Payson Town Council Chambers. Department heads came and went, checking to see if everything was running smoothly -- and it was. They munched on cookies and crackers and vegetables with dip and watched the fireworks around the world on a TV set brought in for the occasion.

Over at Cedar Ridge Restaurant at the Mazatzal Casino, Rex Duffy played a smooth guitar and entertained a quiet crowd of diners who paid $75 a couple for steak and lobster and other fine fare.

In the bingo hall at the casino, "The Hotel California" played under a canopy of colored lights reminiscent of the '70s. A few couples danced, and a net of silver and blue balloons hung overhead, ready to fly at the midnight hour.

At Rim Country Middle School, the Ministerial Fellowship held a watchful vigil. People gathered to sing, listen to hymns and to hear words of inspiration from their church ministers. Parents held their children. The gym was filled with people enjoying the music and munching cookies and crackers and vegetables with dip.

One man, Tom Soutar, threw away his white cane when his vision cleared up for the occasion. It had happened once before when Soutar had regained his sight for six months, but he had gone back to being nearly blind. This time, he touted it as something of a miracle on a night that many had feared.

Over at Mario's Borgata, the Top Cats of Phoenix played music for dancers. A young Mesa couple, Nelson Young and Jacylee Harris, got out on the floor and entertained the crowd with a modern version of swing.

Back at Town Hall, nothing was happening.

Austin Edgar, the son of Information Systems Manager Richard Edgar, was writing "Happy New Year" on the blackboard.

Richard Edgar checked the main computer room and seemed pleased with his work.

Payson Fire Chief John Ross sat with his fianc Kim Morgida, watching fireworks over Lake Michigan on television from Chicago. Other firefighters and some police officers stopped by, making the rounds on a quiet night in Payson.

Mayor Vern Stiffler came by with his wife, Ione, to see how the night was going.

"I did their whole Y2K thing," Edgar said. "If it goes all right, then I think we did our job good.

That's why I think nothing's happening."

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