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A special New Year's Eve in Nashville

| December 31, 2010 8:00 PM

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - It's time to party in Nashville, where the last major entertainment venue closed because of deadly flooding last May will reopen.

The Nashville Symphony - yes, Nashville has more than banjos and steel guitars - will reopen its downtown concert hall Friday night for the first time since it was swamped with floodwater seven months ago. Violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman will be the featured performer.

Butch Spyridon, president of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the concert hall's reopening "is the final piece of recovery from a business standpoint."

But that's just part of a New Year's Eve celebration in the town known as Music City USA.

In Nashville's version of New York's Times Square revelry, a symbolic and brightly lit guitar (what else) will drop methodically from a 100-foot tower as the seconds tick down to midnight in the downtown entertainment district that was flooded in early May. Local tourism officials expect 15,000 to 20,000 to attend the festivities.

Perlman's genteel classical music will contrast the blazing fiddles emanating from an earthy string of honky-tonks just two blocks away, where well-fortified patrons are known to dance on the bar.

The symphony's Schermerhorn Center, which first opened in 2006, suffered $42 million in damage. The symphony moved its performances elsewhere during the restoration.

"It's the exclamation point on a remarkable recovery," Spyridon said.

On Thursday, Tennessee and North Carolina meet in the Music City Bowl at the Tennessee Titans' LP Field, where unforgiving Cumberland River floodwaters covered the playing surface in May.

Between the bowl game and New Year's Eve activities, officials expect about 30,000 out-of-town visitors. The Hermitage Hotel in downtown Nashville has been booked up for several weeks.

"Once they announced the bowl game, it filled us up," said hotel spokeswoman Janet Kurtz.

She said organized celebrations like the one Friday night definitely help the city's hospitality industry.

"People go into restaurants, enjoy the entertainment and then stay downtown," Kurtz said.

In the aftermath of the flooding, 2,600 people were left homeless at least temporarily, and thousands evacuated. Homes were shoved off their foundation and cars were left submerged. There were 10 flood-related deaths in Nashville.

Some of the downtown honky-tonks escaped the floodwater. Other downtown venues closed for a few days or a few weeks.

The Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, 15 miles east of downtown, reopened Nov. 15 after being closed since May for up to $285 million in repairs. The sprawling 2,881-room hotel bills itself as the largest non-gaming hotel in the continental United States.

The Grand Ole Opry House next to the convention center reopened Sept. 28 after restoration needed because the stage had been inundated with four feet of water. The country music shows were relocated in the interim.

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