Halloween is still a few days away, but the big holiday news in the East Valley this week is that downtown Tempe’s annual New Year’s Eve block party is going to be back in its blockbuster glory.
The event had spent a year without a major sponsor since the Fiesta Bowl took its revelry elsewhere, um, I believe to a place called Glendale, wherever that is.
Downtown Tempe Community announced Thursday that Circle K has stepped into the major sponsor role, which means the kind of year-ending celebration we’ve all become accustomed to over the years: Blocks of Mill Avenue closed to all but pedestrian traffic, multiple bands performing, tons of food and drink options.
New arrivals to the East Valley should know that over the years, the party has been a great deal. Adult ticket prices have been around $20 – less if you bought them before the night of the party – and it appealed to a broad cross section, from old to young, families to couples to singles of all ages.
All right, Circle K, since you’ve sold enough bags of them you should know that you need to continue, even expand, the midnight Chip Drop.
At the start of the New Year, a giant chip fell into a vat of artificial “salsa,” creating a national sensation when it was held during a couple of Tempe block parties in the late 1990s. At that time, Tostitos tortilla chips held the naming rights to the Fiesta Bowl game (played in Tempe in those days at Sun Devil Stadium).
The tradition was revived to ring, that is to say, crunch, in the new year of 2012. But the size of the big chip needs to be restored to its former ’90s glory, that is, a chip big enough for King Kong to give up eating giant bananas for.
According to Downtown Tempe Community, a variety of food trucks will continue to satisfy the hunger of attendees. This is definitely an improvement over the old days, when the lines in all the Mill Avenue restaurants ran around the sides of their buildings throughout the party and it would take about two hours to get a table.
Maybe it’s because I’m well into middle age, but if party organizers would provide some more place along Mill to actually sit down, it would help provide brief respite during what is a several-hour event where for some reason you’re expected to stand. Renting some plastic benches for the night would also provide a place for harried parents with children in tow to take stock for a few minutes.
There’s still a postseason college football game in Tempe that time of year – the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl – and the restored Circle K New Year’s Eve Block Party should serve to better encourage fans from the competing schools to stick around for a few more days and spend money.
But, ultimately, the best reason why the Tempe block party’s restoration is important is that cities are defined in significant part by their signature community events, the ones that set them apart from others.
Despite far more attendance at Sun Devil football games, Tempe’s New Year’s Eve celebration has helped identify it as a community, an event people look forward to because the people who go are as big a part of the allure of it as all the food, entertainment, fireworks and, yes, even chip drops.
Read Tribune contributing columnist Mark J. Scarp’s opinions here on Sundays. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.