Brittney Burns – Staff Writer

Thousands of people gathered in front of Entegra Bank on Saturday for Motor Company Grill’s third annual Ruby Drop. As the clock struck midnight, Franklin’s Main Street was thronged with people ready to count down the final seconds of 2016 and welcome in 2017.

“We live in New Jersey, so we often go into the city for New Year’s Eve, but this weekend has been great in Franklin,” said Shannon and AJ Muti. “Franklin’s Ruby Drop is so unique. We have gone to a couple of different restaurants and places and all have great music and it’s just a really fun atmosphere.”

From Currahee Brewing, up Main Street, ending at the the Lazy Hiker Brewing Co. a dozen restaurants, businesses, and bars were open for the third annual New Years Eve Celebration. Live music and drink and food specials were offered for the event, which has quickly grown to be a  flagship event for Macon County.

“We had a great turnout even with a little rain,” said Timothy Crabtree, owner of Motor Company Grill and event organizer. “It was awesome to see so many Main Street businesses open late.  We really appreciate the town allowing us to close the street and for the town police in helping with that. We hope to keep growing the event and building it into something that draws even more people to our great town.”

As the celebration started to wind down, the Macon County Sheriff’s Office was prepared for its eighth annual Operation Think Twice event. Each year, the Macon County Sheriff’s Office provides safe, no-questions-asked, rides home for people out celebrating the New Year.

“This year’s event was really successful,” said Macon County Sheriff Robert Holland. “Our officers provided rides home for 64 people, making sure our roads were a little safer this weekend.”

While Operation Think Twice provided rides home for more than 60 people, all of whom were given a free T-shirt thanks to the event’s sponsors, the county did see two arrests for individuals who were caught driving while impaired.

Western North Carolina MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers) representative Ellen Pitt commended Holland and the MCSO for the innovative event that keeps the community safe.

“MADD WNC has always commended Sheriff Holland and his staff for their visionary, multifaceted approach to DWI on New Year’s Eve, and for the extraordinary compassion that they show toward DWI crime victims,” said Pitt. “During the holidays, there were two wrong-way crashes in Charlotte and one in Florida, and alcohol is suspected. A 17-year-old was killed in Henderson County on Dec. 22, by a driver believed to be alcohol and marijuana impaired. So, we salute Sheriff Holland for his extra effort, and thank all the officers who sacrificed time with their own families to keep us safe.”