Happy New Year from Central Standard Time

PHOTO: BLH Photography, Flickr CC

Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an Iron Range blogger, author, radio producer and columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

Happy New Year’s Eve from the Central Standard Time Zone! New Year’s Eve is a great time to party, even if the shiny ball already dropped in Manhattan an hour before the *real* New Year.

Hey, big networks. Chicago. Houston. Kansas City. Minneapolis. These cities aren’t chopped liver. Why don’t they get a New Year’s countdown?

Maybe it’s because CST is forever destined for awkwardness. And I have proof.

I spent my high school years as a late night disc jockey at an easy listening radio station in Northern Minnesota. This mostly meant nervously squeaking out the weather every twenty minutes, completing math homework as Michael Bolton complained about steel bars wrapped all around him. Middle aged women would call the station to tell me how much they liked that song. Not enough Fleetwood Mac, though. They really just wanted someone to talk to.

On New Year’s Eve 1997 I worked the evening shift. My boss told me it would be OK to play “party music” off of a “Rock ’n’ Roll Hits of the 1950s” CD that I had heretofore been prohibited from handling. “Some of our listeners may wish to dance,” was a line I recall from that conversation.

As the shift wound to a close, it became apparent that I would face an awesome responsibility. I’d be on the air as the New Year arrived. My replacement would take over at midnight.

Immediately I thought of Dick Clark and his annual Rockin’ New Year’s Eve Party, a fixture on ABC since the Mesozoic Age. For the people of the Mesabi Iron Range — or, at least, those of them without televisions who also enjoyed Celine Dion — I would be this year’s Dick Clark. I, too, would be rockin.’

My broadcast partner would be the overnight guy, a reedy-voiced fella who shortened his seven-syllable name for the radio. We got along well, but had never broadcast together before.

“Let’s do a few minutes of talk and then do a countdown,” he suggested.

Talk! I was ordered to talk as little as possible on the air. Pithy comments had to be selected from a print-out that the wire service spit out automatically every morning. Every one of them was terrible. By the time my night shift came, the less-bad ones were long gone. Any deviation from the script was strongly discouraged. I was constantly watching David Letterman at this time, but had to be much more sparing in my broadcast rebellion.

Five. Four. But tonight I would be a real host. Three. Two. Free to speak my mind. One. The red “on air” light blazed to life. Call letters. Time. Temperature. I flipped on my partner’s microphone and we began.

“So, Aaron. Did you have a good year?” he asked.

My parents’ marriage was falling apart. We lost the family business. I would never be able to afford journalism school at Northwestern. The girl I loved said she would call me at 11:30 but must have gotten too busy with her boyfriend hundreds of miles away from my present location.

“Yeah,” I said. “Pretty good.”

After a pause, he said. “Yeah, me too. Do you have any resolutions?”

“No,” I said. “Just keep doing what I’m doing.”

I was blowing it. This was really bad, and we both knew it.

“Three minutes!” I interjected.

As I recall, the rest of the conversation was about counting. The science of it. How counting backwards was harder than counting forwards. The whole thing was like riding an elevator with your friend’s half-deaf grandma … to the moon.

At some point past 11:59 p.m. we decided to cut our losses. We wouldn’t wait to start counting at 10 the way they did on TV. We would start the countdown at THIRTY FIVE! Ha! That’ll fix it.

Ever count down from 35 while staring into the eyes of a casual work acquaintance? So, that.

We survived. The wild parties thumping across the the Iron Range no doubt continued unabated. It is quite possible that literally no one heard this broadcast. I can hope.

So, perhaps one day Chicago will host a real New Year’s Eve Party that the whole country can watch. Maybe it’ll end up in Texas or St. Louis. But for most, the awkward, arbitrary task of watching a ticking clock can happen anywhere. The new year will come, one way or another. Even here.

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog MinnesotaBrown.com and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune.



  1. Good story! I enjoy your writing. I brought in the new century at my cabin by Outing, MN. I thought I would be watching it on Letterman, on the one station from Walker we got in there. They decided to run a New Year church service instead. Not such a memorable start to the new millennium, but the power didn’t go out, as some predicted and I didn’t need to start the generator.

  2. Victoria Cox says

    I enjoyed reading the memory from your radio days. I agree with your idea that we need a CST New Year’s Eve celebration. Boise, Idaho in Mountain Time hosts a giant potato drop. Surely we could come up with something equally droll yet festive for CST. Chicago would be an obvious choice; a city that colors a river green for St. Patrick’s Day should know how to host a grand New Year’s party.

  3. Yeah I’ve been extremely annoyed!! Years back at least 13 would broadcast from some old person polka in Duluth. Last night? Literally nothing. Not even a replay of New York!!! I ended up having to find a live stream on YouTube!! I did find one in New Orleans and a “note drop” in Nashville was also on the video. Both were lame compared to New York but I missed New York completely lol

    It really is lame that our local tv shows can’t play something – anything….

  4. David Gray says

    It’s been all downhill since Guy Lombardo left this life…

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