With champagne toasts, concerts, ball drops and prayers, North Alabamians will say goodbye to 2018 — a year that saw the landing of NASA’s space probe on Mars, the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the global expansion of the #MeToo movement, the premier of “Black Panther” and the deaths of Aretha Franklin, Rev. Billy Graham, Jamal Khashoggi, Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, Burt Reynolds, Stan Lee, Sen. John McCain, former President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush — and ring in 2019.
Festivities will range from intimate dinners to church services to crowded concerts to a New Year’s Day plunge in the Tennessee River.
Decatur Polar Bear Club president Wayne Holliday began the tradition of jumping into the Tennessee River at noon on New Year’s Day in 1985. After several years of solo jumps, the event grew to more than 100 people — that is until last year, when single-digit temperatures cut the number of participants in half.
With the National Weather Service of Huntsville predicting a high of 51 on Tuesday, organizers expect a larger turnout of Polar Bears to jump off the Riverwalk Marina on U.S. 31. While participating is free, the event sells T-shirts to benefit the Meals on Wheels & More program, which delivers food to more than 370 elderly and disabled citizens in Morgan County. For information about the Polar Bear Plunge, call Cindy Anderson at Community Action Partnership of North Alabama at 256-260-3103.
For those looking for a warmer, more traditional way to celebrate the new year, check out these options.
Designed for Morgan County’s younger set — ages 21 to 40 — the second annual MOCO New Year’s Eve Pop-Up Party will take place Monday at the Morgan County Celebration Arena. The carnival-themed event, scheduled for 9 p.m.-12:30 a.m., will include food options of cotton candy, corn dogs, funnel cakes, fries and more. Admission is free.
The Jam Shop on Second Avenue Southeast will feature music from local bands during the Mega Metal Bash party on Monday at 8 p.m. Featured bands include Inclination of Direction, Goth Party and Jager. Admission is $10. Guests are invited to bring their own beverages.
Other celebrations in Decatur will take place at The Brick on East Moulton Street, Moe’s on Second Avenue, The Hard Dock at Riverwalk Marina with entertainment by DJ Krank E. Eric, and Josie’s with music from Zach Graham and Trey Allred.
In Athens, Tomcat and Bark the Dawg will entertain partygoers at Mac’s Sports Bar on Jefferson Street. And in Moulton, Bobby Rai’s Sports Grill will open at 3 p.m. and feature live music.
At Priceville Palace, guests can dance away the last of 2018 with music from the Driftwood Band. The music starts at 8 p.m. Admission costs $10.
For churchgoers, worship services will offer an opportunity to pray in the new year. The Church at Stone River will lead a community contemporary worship service at Ingalls Harbor on New Year’s Eve at 11:30 p.m. The service will begin at 11:45 and a Chinese lantern release will take place at midnight.
New Hope Road Church and The Living Word Church in Hartselle will hold a combined Watch Night Service on Monday at 7 p.m. at 103 South Bethel Road in Hartselle. At Cross Baptist Church in Falkville, members will celebrate the New Year with singing, preaching, eating and praying. The service will begin at 7 p.m. with music from Trusting Grace and Debra Perry and Jaidyn’s Call and preaching by David Smith.
For the third year, Decatur Baptist Church will mark the transition of years by reading through the Bible. The reading will begin at noon on Sunday and continue through Wednesday. The church will livestream the reading on Facebook.
Other New Year’s Eve events:
• Mars Masquerade at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville. Festivities include music from the Athens-based Flashbacks Show Band, heavy hors d’oeuvres and a champagne toast. Admission to the black-tie optional event is $75 per person. rocketcenter.com
• Have Yourself a Jazzy Little New Year at Huntsville Botanical Garden. Hosted by Kenny Anderson, the event will raise funds for athletic scholarships at Calhoun Community College and Oakwood University. Tickets cost $50 per person. eventbrite.com
• “Wizards, Wands and Lightsabers” at the Von Braun Center. The concert by Huntsville Symphony Orchestra at 7:30 p.m. will feature music from John Williams’ scores for “Harry Potter” and “Star Wars.” Tickets start at $15. hso.org.