New Year gets off to cracker start

Scenes from Tropical Fruits in Lismore and Beats on the Beach in Ballina. See page five from more pics (including snaps from the Electric Sunshine Superdisco).

Minor vandalism and loutish behaviour at Evans Head by some New Years Eve revellers marred an otherwise incident-free weekend throughout the Northern Rivers.

Thousands of holiday-makers flocked to the region to celebrate and attend a variety of New Years events including Lismores Tropical Fruits dance party and Ballinas Beats on the Beach music festival.

Richmond Local Area Command spokesman Senior Constable Michael Hogan said that apart from isolated cases of vandalism, police were very impressed with the behaviour of most people during New Years Eve celebrations.

An increased police presence at party hot spots such as Evans Head and Lennox Head, including high-visibility street patrols, ensured people enjoyed themselves in a safe environment, he said.

Organisers of the inaugural Beats on the Beach music festival on New Years Day are hailing it a success and say they plan to run it again next year.

The youth-oriented music festival at Ballinas Kingsford Smith Park drew a crowd of around 5000, but a heavy police presence at the grounds kept rowdy or unsocial behaviour to a minimum and some punters on edge.

Using sniffer dogs, police detained around 40 people who were mostly carrying small amounts of illegal drugs such as cannabis or ecstasy.

But according to one punter the large number of police and their drug-detection dogs was quite unnecessary.

Bimbi Waters, of Lismore, said the festival was fantastic but criticised the heavy policing and said the inadequacy of the venue made it hard to enjoy.

Everywhere we were surrounded by police which put a bit of a negative spin on it, said Bimbi. I saw people bailed up and barked at by sniffer dogs, which I felt was a bit too heavy-handed.

She also said the lack of shade at the grounds was shocking, with many people suffering sunburn, and she also felt the toilets were too far away.

The venue was not the best for it, but it was good to see local artists supported, said Bimbi who watched her partner Brendan (Mud) perform.

Promoter Sam Speaight said issues such as lack of shade would be addressed when fine-tuning the event next year.

I think its fair to say that as an inaugural event it was extremely successful...and there were no safety concerns or issues raised, he said. There was a fair police presence which was interesting, but necessary.

He said several residents living adjacent to the park who were offered free tickets took advantage of them.

Meanwhile, in Lismore, around 3000 people danced and pranced their way into the New Year at the Tropical Fruits party at the Lismore Showgrounds.

Organisers of the biggest gay dance party outside of capital cities, reported an incident-free 18th annual event which included a spectacular half-hour fireworks display.

Lots of locals drove down, parked outside and had a look at the fireworks - it was big feature of the evening, said spokesman Ian Gray.

The event also included a cooling down gathering at Lismores Memorial Baths on New Years Day attended by about 300 people and a recovery party also at the showgrounds.

On the big night, we employed a first-aid emergency-services team to improve safety, but they only had to look after a few minor headaches and scratches, he said.

At party hot-spot Evans Head, some residents were appalled at the destruction and mess left behind by revellers partying long and hard into the night.

Dr Richard Gates photographed some of the mess during a stroll around the village early in the morning on New Years Day.

It wasnt a pretty sight again this year with broken glass all over the road on a number of streets and footpaths, overturned portable toilets with their contents spewed out on the roads near the Evans River and lots of sleeping bodies from the front verandah of the Community Health Service premises to the local community hall, he said.

Dr Gates, a retired physician, said he was disturbed after seeing so many underage drinkers full of booze around the village on the night and the next morning.

They dont realise how such drinking will have a permanent and irreversible effect on their young brains ... the media only shows a rosy picture of everyone having a good time but not the real effects of such risky behaviour, he said.

But Evans Head-based Richmond Valley Councillor Ray Jeffery said he did not think the after-party mess was as bad as last year considering the large number of people, especially youth, who visited the village over the weekend.

Cr Jeffery praised Council staff for having the village all cleaned up very early in the morning.

I was critical (of the mess) last year, but this year they got on with the job real early - by 6am, 98 per cent of the rubbish had been cleaned up, he said.

Meanwhile traditional New Years Eve party hot-spot Lennox Head had a quiet one, with an alcohol-free zone in place and no formal celebration planned.

Everything was very, very family oriented and quiet, said Margaret Richardson, from the Lennox Head Residents Association.

But the trashing of a large, cutout Santa and services-club signs at the southern gateway to the coastal village left a sour taste among locals, she said.

All that hard work by our Coastcare volunteers - the Santa and club signs were smashed to pieces, everything had to be taken to the dump, she said. It looks like no more Santa Clauses for our small village.

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