Locals traded downtown block parties for personal celebrations this New Year's.
Typical New Year’s Eve festivities Sarasotans know and love weren’t in place this year. While there was no block party on Main Street, plenty of people found new and different ways to celebrate a new year.
Typically Jennifer Rominiecki, CEO of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, has a lavish but hectic New Year’s Eve every year. She and her husband Rob host an annual gala at the gardens that brings in hundreds of well-dressed and elegant partiers.
But it’s been a year of strangeness, oddities, and feeling like we’re in a different world. What better way to celebrate the end of a bizarre year than to accept it with family?
Instead of spending time at an elaborate black tie affair, Rob and Jennifer instead made hot chocolate and sat down with their children Luke and Noah to a "Twilight Zone" television marathon.
"Why not embrace the alternate reality that was 2020?”
Luke and Noah usually watch the New Year’s ball drop with their grandmother — this was the first time in years that the Rominiecki parents were home with them to count down to midnight.
She said it was a relaxed change of pace to eat homemade cannolis and enjoy Rod Serling monologues. She particularly enjoyed watching the episodes “Nick of Time” with William Shatner and “Time Enough at Last” with Burgess Meredith.
“It was very relaxed and laid back,” she said. “The thing about the Twilight Zone is that it really sucks you in … you find yourself completely absorbed in these really unique tales.”
Jan. 1 is an important day for business owners Lindsay and Bobby Sweeting — it’s the day they were married 11 years ago. In their eyes, the start of a new year was the perfect time to start their new lives together.
They’ve made good use of their New Year’s Eves over the years, often taking their two children Tyler and Jay with them on trips across the country. The group was coming home from a trip to New York City last New Year’s Eve, and they had already made plans to visit Washington D.C. or London. They’ve instead spent most of this year social distancing and making sure their kids stay healthy.
This year was quieter — Lindsay and Bobby had food outdoors at Veronica Fish and Oyster Restaurant and watched "Jeopardy!"
Instead of an end-of-year trip, Lindsay and Bobby had built a sizable playground for their kids outdoors. It was something of a present for their children who had to stay home for most of this year.
The couple popped champagne and watched their children play on their new swingset to finish out the year.
"That's what been our holiday has been,” Sweeting said. “Making our home a little more fun.”
Skin care business owner Jamie Messenger usually has quieter New Year’s Eves either at home or with friends but 2020 was different. She decided to plan a trip with her children Jackson and Anabella and left it to her son to decide where they would go.
He picked a state she’d not expected: Utah. Messenger and her children traded Sarasota’s warm shores for the snowy landscapes of Park City.
“Going in I was like ... ‘Could you have shot for an island maybe?’” Messenger said. “But it was beautiful, it all fell into place.”
The trio skied, explored the new climate, and enjoyed time together. Between arriving the same day as a blizzard and watching her children's reaction to a completely different environment, Messenger said the trip was a great way to be in the moment and to prepare for a new year.
“It's such a hard, horrible year but perspective changes everything,” Messenger said. “When I changed my perspective to think how blessed I am ... it was so good to spend time with (my children). (You) realize … there can still be hope and something to look forward to.”
They spent New Year’s Eve on their hotel room balcony watching fireworks.
“It was so special for me to be with my children and to create a new tradition,” Messenger said. “We're going to do it again next year for sure.”
Clara Reynardus de Villanueva
Clara Reynardus de Villanueva and her husband Roberto are supportive members of Sarasota’s philanthropic scene and enjoy being out on the town for New Year’s Eve.
As that wasn’t much of an option in 2020, Clara looked to other avenues to celebrate the end of a hard year. She and her husband went to their friend Elizabeth Moore’s ranch in Myakka. It was a quieter and much smaller affair that was, importantly, outside. Roberto brought his special “Coquito Roberto” drink, his coconut variation on the Puerto Rican eggnog drink.
It was a relaxing environment where the couple enjoyed the oak trees, small gators that were resting on the banks of the Myakka River, and the the sunset overlooking the natural Florida landscape. For Clara Reynardus de Villanueva, it felt like a good time to reflect.
“(Events) are a lot of fun and we love doing it but this didn't feel less special,” she said. “It was just different. It was more in line with this year being reflective and thinking about what the new year is going to bring and our expectations for the new year … we’re all feeling positive.”