There was no shortage of options for how Brandonites could ring in the new year on Monday night; from live bands, to dinners and dances, to a rap concert — but for out-of-towners there’s one bar that keeps them coming back.
"I haven’t been anywhere else for new year’s," said Kyle Sobush, from Oxbow, Sask., a small town about 230 kilometres southwest of Brandon.
Sobush and his friends have been coming to Brandon for New Year’s Eve for the past five years since he turned 18. Recently, they’ve incorporated snowboarding at Asessippi Ski Area and Resort as part of the trip.
"We just spent the whole day snowboarding, and now we’re here to celebrate. It’s always a good, friendly, happy kind of atmosphere," he said.
Another out-of-town group from about 50 kilometres further than Oxbow said they come to Brandon to dance.
"We have sit-down lounges and places like that, but we don’t have dancey bars," said Alyssa Harris, taking a break from dancing on the stage with her friends at Houstons.
The group of about 30 people have come from Estevan, Sask., for the past three years. One of Harris’ friends, Dustin Debruye, left his girlfriend at home to spend New Year’s Eve with his friends.
"I’m having a great time, but I wish she could be my new year’s kiss," Debruye said. "I feel kind of bad leaving her there, because it’s not like this. It’s not as fun."
The group grows every year, this year adding first-timer Allscott Trach.
"I’ve spent the past eight years at home with a close of group friends, but this is pretty nice," said Trach, after spinning his friend Ashley Bengtson around in a swing dance.
For most Brandonites who were out the night is about spending time with friends.
"It’s a tradition — we start the night at Houstons, and then head to The 40," said Clayton Jamessen, who has been spending new year’s at the two bars with his friend Landon Toms for the past three years.
"It’s a different vibe — a different crowd. The 40 is a good way to finish the night."
Downtown at the Double Decker Tavern the crowd was mainly familiar faces out to dance while local bands Bakunin’s Broom, Bearded Brothers and Sebastian Owl performed.
Owner Allen Shalwani, at around 2 a.m., said he was happy with the turnout.
"Great music, and lots of happy people. It’s been a great night," he said.
Regulars Ivory and Mitch have been to the Decker for New Year’s for the past three years.
"You feel like you know everybody," said Ivory. "It’s home."