Behind-the-Scenes: Ringing in the New Year with WRAL-TV

WRAL-TV Assignment Editor Kelly Riner gave capcom a sneak peek at the work behind WRAL-TV’s live coverage from downtown Raleigh during First Night 2015. Here’s the scoop:

WRAL-TV's Kelly Riner (l to r), Ken Smith, Lynda Loveland & Adam Owens ring in the New Year with WRAL-TV's live coverage of downtown Raleigh's First Night.

WRAL-TV’s Kelly Riner (l to r), Ken Smith, Lynda Loveland & Adam Owens ring in the New Year with WRAL-TV’s live coverage of downtown Raleigh’s First Night.

It all comes down to one night. The planning starts months ahead of time. Emails, phone calls, and networking visits start long before summer is even over. The countdown to the countdown to midnight is a long one for anyone working on First Night Raleigh.

From the engineers to the photographers, and from the hosts and anchors to the producers, for many First Night is an annual tradition. Most on site that night have covered First Night for more than 10 years. It was a first though for WRAL-TV Anchor/Reporter Lynda Loveland, who co-hosted this year with WRAL-TV Anchor/Reporter Ken Smith.

The morning of December 31st started with pouring rain. Hopes of the rain subsiding began to wane has the rain kept coming in heavy bands. By 3pm, it was still raining sideways, and it looked like it would shape up to be a very different First Night than any of the crew had planned.

Loveland’s introduction to first night was a very soggy, empty Fayetteville Street. “Lynda, it’s usually packed with families already,” was a sentiment shared with her about two dozen times.  A tent covered the usually-open platform to protect the gear from the rain. No one gathered around the bands on stage performing their sound checks.

But by around 6pm, the rain finally cleared just in time for the annual People’s Procession, and the crowds slowly began to pack Fayetteville Street.

“It’s finally starting to look like a normal crowd,” Smith told Loveland.

From that point on, the festivities were in full swing. At 7pm, a huge applause filled the city streets as the acorn dropped early for the kids. Fayetteville Street was packed from the acorn all the way back to the Capitol.

WRAL-TV Reporter Adam Owens and WRAL-TV Photographer Robert Meikle made their way through the crowds to capture all of the unique moments of First Night. Meanwhile, Loveland, Smith, and WRAL-TV photographers Mark Simpson and Greg Clark worked on finding the best stories to share with viewers too. From the rides to a pop-up wedding chapel, and from a Johnny Cash tribute band to an Irish band on the main stage, viewers got a complete taste of First Night!

Lynda Loveland & Jeanne Jolley

WRAL-TV’s Lynda Loveland interviews Jeanne Jolly as she plays music during WRAL’s live coverage of First Night Raleigh on New Year’s Eve 2015.

This year, WRAL teamed up with local music producers to find the most talented, most promising up and coming talent to showcase throughout the newscasts. Performances from nine local artists helped add to First Night coverage.

Dave Rose, of Deep South Entertainment, said, “We really enjoy working with you on this.  I thought it turned out great as well, and it really puts a spark through the music community.  Let’s make it a tradition.”

By midnight, there was no sign of the evening’s earlier rain, and the near-capacity crowd everyone expected was finally in place and ready to party! Smith asked Loveland if her first First Night was everything she expected, and he received a resounding, yes!

“It’s been a fantastic night. I’m honored to work with such great people,” she said.

Ken Smith turned to both Loveland and Owens, “I’ve had the best time sharing First Night with you two. It’s been a great night. I can’t wait to do it again next year.”

And with that, the countdown to next year’s First Night coverage began!

Thanks to WRAL-TV’s Kelly Riner for this capcom story & for these capcom photos.


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