HARMONY — Part of Butler County celebrated the New Year six hours before the rest.
Attendees at Harmony's annual New Year's Eve and German heritage celebration, Silvester, counted down to 2019 at 6 p.m. Dec. 31, which was midnight in Germany.
Although the rain and cooler temperatures made crowds seem thinner, they could not dampen the party for many in Harmony.
Festivities began earlier in the day with a 5K followed by a one-mile run later in the afternoon. The pre-registered runners faced heavy rains, puddles and mud before reaching the finish line.
More people started to pour into the celebration as the time grew closer to the 6 p.m. main event of the ball drop, said Rodney Gasch, Historic Harmony president.
“We always see better crowds when Mother Nature cooperates,” Gasch said.
However, Gasch said, those who braved the weather were a “hearty bunch” and that all who did make it out “seemed cheerful.”
There was even good participation in the Christmas tree toss, Gasch said, despite many having to battle with the rain and cold to throw well.
“It's nice to see everyone out here anyway,” Gasch said, “with their umbrellas and hoods and ponchos.”
Most funds raised from food sales or games and activities will go back into the community to benefit everything from parks and trails to the museum and the fire department.
Gasch spent the evening working the gluhwein and Christmas tree toss booth with Gwen Lutz, Harmony Museum vice president, who said the museum sold gluhwein, a holiday drink, on New Year's Eve for nearly 20 years and did so even before Silvester became a tradition for the borough about 12 years ago.
Lutz said the event has always been good for families and people who “don't want to be out very late” because they still get to see the ball drop and have a party without extending bedtimes for children.
“It's just a great event,” Lutz said.
Hundreds of people showed up in time to watch the ball drop with their loved ones.
The celebrations concluded with a fireworks display after the crowds counted down from 10 in German.
Many stayed, even though the rain started coming down harder, as the fireworks show and DJ's sing-along rendition of “Sweet Caroline” took participants out of 2018 and into the new year.