WALLINGFORD — Fireworks might be a grand way to ring in the new year, but feasting suited revelers at Zandri’s Stillwood Inn’s annual gala.
About 300 people were ringing in the new year at Zandri’s, 1074 S. Colony Road, beginning at 6 p.m. Sunday with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.
“We have the capacity to (host) more people,” said owner Jim Zandri, “but I don’t like to do it with too big of a crowd anymore. When I’m at 300, I’m good. That’s what I like.”
Guests had dinner and dessert, followed by coffee and snacks, and access to an open bar all night.
It’s a “complete night out,” Zandri said. “People come, they stay the night, and it’s the whole night for them.”
For entertainment, there was dancing with DJ Kevin Marshall, of Local Motion Entertainment and a commemorative photo booth, with props and festive hats. The midnight celebration would include a champagne toast and balloon drop.
Sunday’s party marked the 39th year of the event.
“We advertise it as Connecticut’s longest, continuously running New Year’s party,” Zandri said, although whether that’s the case is unknown. ”Nobody’s argued about it yet,” he said.
There were plenty of familiar faces among the new ones. About half or more of the crowd are returning guests, Zandri said.
Helena Diaz, of Wallingford, was a longtime waitress at Zandri’s and returns for the New Year’s Eve party every year. She and her husband, Jose Diaz, were joined by friends Eva and Stanley Bialecki.
“You won’t find better food than here,” Eva Bialecki said.
The group also attends bingo and other holiday parties at Zandri’s.
Raymond Ragaini, of Ansonia, another longtime supporter of Zandri’s, said the New Year’s Eve event is always organized, the people diverse, and the evening beautiful.
“His success is because he’s very highly organized,” Ragaini said. “Longevity is a good thing.”
For the 40th New Year’s Eve gala a year from now, Zandri said guests could expect a little extra celebrating. As for ringing in 2018, guests enjoyed a premium New Year’s Eve of fine dining and good company.