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A Different New Years in Blair County

In a typical year, the Altoona Grand Hotel would welcome hundreds of guests on New Year’s Eve, but for the last time in 2020, COVID-19 forced a change of plans.

“We get about 300 to 400 people,” said General Manager Lindsay Danella of previous New Year’s Eve parties. “They come, they get some dinner, some drinks and dancing and they ring in the new year.”

The hotel hosts the biggest bash in the area, normally filling its courtyard, ballrooms and bar with celebration.

This year, staff didn’t even get far enough in their planning to choose a theme.

“It probably would have been maybe The Great Depression,” Danella said. “That probably would have been a fitting theme, but again we didn’t get there so it was quite depressing.”

Depressing, not only because they’re missing out on the normal New Year’s fun, but what the annual tradition means for business.

“It’s a huge revenue boost especially for the last day this year,” Danella said. “With the drinking and the alcohol and the food, even just [people] staying in the hotel rooms, we’re missing all of it with the restrictions.”

Those restrictions limit indoor gatherings to ten people and prevent indoor dining at bars and restaurants until Jan. 4.

Blair County EMA Director Mark Taylor anticipates most residents will stay home on New Year’s Eve.

“I’m not aware of any big parties planned anywhere,” he said. “I would expect most people would lean more towards small, family gatherings this evening.”

Taylor said case counts and hospitalizations have shown steady improvement in Blair County, but vaccine distribution is way behind.

Despite a change in calendars, he said it may be some time before we can get back to the parties of old.

“The key is getting everybody vaccinated and working to build towards some herd-immunity,” Taylor said. “It’s going to take a while. Nothing can really change, we need to stay vigilant and keep doing what we’ve been doing.”

Staff at the Altoona Grand Hotel are looking ahead to next year and planning future events.

Danella said she’s confident the hotel and the community will bounce back.

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