2011 has come

Gloworama kicks off an electrifying New Year in downtown Houston (with video)

Gloworama kicks off an electrifying New Year in downtown Houston (with video)

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Fireworks lit up the sky at midnight as 2011 arrived in Houston. Photo by Michelle Watson
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Jesse Dayton wowed the crowd Photo by Michelle Watson
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The flashy peacock car lit up the night Photo by Michelle Watson
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From left, Kay Parker, Kathy Hubbard, Marquitta Parker and Mayor Annise Parker Photo by Michelle Watson
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Look out Times Square.

A new New Year's Eve tradition was born in Houston Friday night  — and it has all the promise of becoming a major yearly attraction.

The inaugural Gloworama brought thousands to downtown Houston to ring in the New Year with a nighttime art car parade, performances by country star Jesse Dayton, FireSpinners and the performance art group ArcAttack, and a spectacular light show on the front of the George R. Brown Convention Center.

Discovery Green was packed with well-behaved revelers, including couples pushing strollers, groups of teenagers and city officials, including Mayor Annise Parker and her family.

Parker, who said she usually celebrates New Year's Eve at home putting together a jigsaw puzzle with her family, braved the chilly weather in a chic black satin jacket and slacks to watch the parade of art cars, festively lit in neon. Among the most popular cars were the Dance Bus, a decorated school bus playing disco tunes; La Cucaracha, a mobile roachmobile that occasionally emitted burst of fire; the Peacemobile, festooned with an admonition to "Make out not war!; and a Peacock car with a big tulle and neon plume.

"I think this will be the go-to event for New Year's Eve in Houston," Parker said. "It's quintessential Houston. Art cars and Houston go together. It makes for a wonderful family-friendly event."

Parker was accompanied by her mother, Kay Parker, her partner Kathy Hubbard, their teenage daughter, Marquitta and several of her daughter's friends. "I am the designated parent for four 15-year-olds so their parents can go our for New Year's Eve," Parker explained.

With the city facing a dramatic shortfall in revenues, Parker emphasized that the event was underwritten by corporate sponsors. The festivities were televised by Channel 13.

The evening was a little like Houston — disorganized and chaotic at times, but filled with promise.

The parade lagged, with large gaps between cars, which often moved at a snail's pace, as the crowd shivered in the increasingly breezy night. Later, before midnight, only a small VIP group of around 200 people got an up-close look at the spectacular performance art group, ArcAttack, which incorporated lightening bolts into their act in front of the George R. Brown. Those who didn't pay for VIP tickets were cordoned off a good distance away with a limited  view. Hopefully organizers can figure out a way to let revelers fill the street in front of the convention center next year for such awe-inspiring performances.

But such quibbles are minor. The 3-D light show on the front of the convention center, engineered by Houston-based LD Systems and Andy DiRaddo, was spectacular, as was the entertainment. The event was well organized and downtown Houston had the electric feeing of a major urban center with a diverse crowd of strangers wishing each other Happy New Year in good-natured revelry.

We can't wait till next year.

See video of the fantastic 3-D light show: