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Residents prepare to ring in the new year

By Billy Corriher

With a new year beginning when the clock strikes midnight, area residents are hoping to make the last night of 2003 a memorable one.

Lata Chinnan, owner of the New South Package Store in Riverdale, said New Year's Eve is usually the busiest day of the year at her store.

"We do three times the business we do on a normal Saturday, which is usually our busiest day of the week," she said.

Chinnan said her biggest seller on New Year's Eve is, naturally, champagne. A lot of people also come in for corkscrews and glasses, she said.

"We are getting the champagne ready and chilled," she said.

Tim Hollar of Lovejoy said he plans on welcoming the new year at a party with friends.

"We did the same thing last year and we had fun," he said. "It might become a tradition."

Hollar said that, judging by their party last year, this year's celebration could get "a little rowdy."

"New Year's is one time of the year when it's okay to get a little crazy," he said.

But Hollar said his friends will party responsibly and stay off the roads if they've been drinking.

That's a good idea because the law enforcement officials say they plan to be out in full force over the long holiday, checking for driving drunk or seat belt violations, among other things.

Officers warn that if you plan to drink and drive the odds are pretty good that you will be caught and jailed.

Doyle Oliver said he plans on driving from Jonesboro to Knoxville, Tenn. on Friday.

"It won't be a very big thing, just my immediate family," he said. His family plans on having a traditional New Year's dinner with collard greens and black-eyed peas for good luck, Oliver said.

Jonesboro resident Kim Jackson said she plans to spend the last night of the year at a Watch Night service at Shiloh Baptist Church.

Jackson said she doesn't party for New Year's Eve like she did as a young woman.

"That's in the past for me," she said.

Debra McClinic of Jonesboro also said she plans to be at her church on New Year's Eve.

"That's the best place you can be," she said. "But there's nothing wrong with going to parties if that's what you want to do."

Security guard Lorenzo Davis of Jonesboro said he will not be able to be with family or friends tonight because he will be on duty.

"It's okay, though. My family understands," he said. "And I got to spend Christmas with them."

Davis said that, since he has to work, his wife is just planning on a quiet evening at home tonight.

"My wife said I'd better be the first person coming to the door when the new year starts," he said.