A new year begins but not before one last party

Thousands enjoyed outdoor community festivities in Warrnambool, Port Fairy and Cobden with street processions, live music and spectacular fireworks.

After the economic disaster of the recent telephone exchange  blackout , the collapse of Banksia Financial Group, nervousness over Southern Securities investments and continued pressure on export rural industries, it was a welcome excuse to put it all behind and look to a brighter future.

The biggest crowds were in Port Fairy where more than 5000 people lined the length of six blocks to watch the annual Moyneyana Festival procession of street floats.

Forty-two entries comprising vehicles, animals, community groups, dancers and musicians paraded through the main streets.

Heritage watchdog Marten Syme dressed as a whaler carrying a harpoon on the Sir Fletcher Jones whaleboat, which will hit the water today for the annual wooden and classic boat race.

Local identities Digby Wolff and Kim McIlroy took an old Leyland double-decker London bus which they drove from Ballarat to Port Fairy for the event before heading north to Coolangatta.

Bruce and Jann Dyson drove a ute loaded with family members and friends in honour of former festival stalwart George Dyson, who died in November aged 89.

Then there was real horsepower of the Ned Kelly gang - Stacey Oborne, Julie Hoey, Megan Stevens and Paige Ferguson - complete with head armour and rifles.

Mortlake's Danny Ewing took his trusty Clydesdale-cross mare in harness, with her two-month-old foal Alice following closely on her first outing in crowds. 

Cobden's miniature railway and mini-golf complex was alive with people as thousands enjoyed music, street shows and fireworks.

"It's huge this year. We closed the public roads at 5pm," organiser Neil Podger said. 

At Flagstaff Hill's New Year's Eve On The Hill in Warrnambool, more than 1000 people enjoyed a buoyant family atmosphere, fireworks and live entertainment.

Enlivening the celebrations were the luminous partygoers in the "Neon Glow" costume theme party held by the Wylie, Sloane, Brady and Hayward families. The parents of the group first met during their university days in Ballarat and often have a costume theme for their regular get-togethers for milestone events.

Young French couple Sebastien Berthouly, 22, and Jade Hochart, 21, got in the party mood at McGennan car park overlooking the foreshore before heading into one of city's night spots.They arrived after travelling the Great Ocean Road and were looking not only for a party - but a place to sleep afterwards.

Also taking on a new look at Flagstaff Hill was Bradley "BJ" Hopgood of Warrnambool who was wearing glow-in-the-dark dreadlocks while his mum, Gwen Swinton, a Flagstaff Hill volunteer, was in period costume.

Many people gathered at Lake Pertobe including the Meaola, Myers, Smock and Osborne families, who enjoyed a barbecue and beach cricket before the 9.30pm fireworks display, while Warrnambool teen Summer Holscher celebrated her 15th birthday with family and friends.

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