Crowds flock to Stonehaven to welcome in 2011 in style

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THOUSANDS of people flocked to Stonehaven to welcome in the new year in a blaze of glory last Friday.

An estimated crowd of 8000 people attended this year’s Fireball ceremony, which has been taking place in the town for around 100 years.

The traditional parade – which has grown into one of Scotland’s most popular New Year festivals and consists of local people of all ages swinging flaming wire cages around their heads – made its way along the High Street to the harbour to mark the arrival of 2011. 48 swingers took part this year.

And there was plenty more to keep the crowds entertained before and after the midnight event, thanks to the 11th annual Open Air in the Square.

The event featured a story-teller for the little ones, traditional food and drink, a DJ competition and music from local bands including the Trybe, Newtonhill Pipe Band and Xtreme Machine.

It was the first year at the helm of the Fireball ceremony for long-standing committee member Susan Leiper, who moved from the post of secretary to chairwoman of the association in March last year. She took over the reins from Alan Venters, who had spent three years as chair.

Mrs Leiper said: “It went really well, as it normally does. There is never any trouble and the estimated crowd was 8000 which was a nice number - manageable! It was a really good turnout and the swingers are all glad of the support they get, it was a lovely crowd.”

And there was a change in personnel amongst the marshals too, with Kevin Boyne taking over as chief marshal from David Fleming.

Mrs Leiper said: “It was a big year for both of us, trying to remember everything we have to do and I’m feeling very relieved that it went so well! It’s a big responsibility, I never realised how big until I got into the crux of it.”

She added: “The weather was great on the night too, which was lovely - it was a bit drizzly in parts but apart from that it was good.”

The Fireballs Association will have their AGM in March and Mrs Leiper said: “The whole committee has really supported me this year. It is not a one-man show, there are an awful lot of jobs to do and the committee has really pulled its weight this year. It is a good band of folk and it is great to have that support behind you.”

It was an extra-special night for one teenager, who came back to the town where he was born to play with Stonehaven Pipe Band.

Liam Salter moved away from Stonehaven when he was just a matter of months old and his family have now settled in Perth, Australia. However, he has remained proud of his Scottish roots and is a keen bagpiper, so jumped at the chance to play with the local group on his first visit back to Stonehaven since the family left.

Mrs Leiper said: “He is really proud of his Stonehaven roots and expressed an interest in being part of the pipe band this year. He was absolutely tickled pink afterwards.”

Chairwoman of Open Air in the Square, Alison Lynch, said: “Everything went well and I think everyone enjoyed themselves.”

The group will hold their AGM next month and Ms Lynch has appealed for people to come along and find out about ways they can get involved in helping over the course of the year or simply on the day itself.

Ms Lynch said that there were only a handful of people involved in setting up the square for the event, which meant that they were working from 6am on December 31 until 4am on January 1. There is a great need for volunteers who are able to help with heavy lifting and setting up prior to the event next year.

She added: “Thank you to everybody that has put in all the hard work over the year and supported me throughout.”

More information on how to contact the committee and get involved can be found at www.openairinthesquare.co.uk.