New Year’s Eve is not the night to be fashionably late. Especially if ringing in the annual “new life and new you” means attending the Snyder Grand Ball at the S.C. Aquarium.

There are only five hours to make it happen. So we flashed our tickets and IDs at the entrance, where our hosts fitted us with those blue Bud Light wristbands that really make formal attire pop. The first reaction we heard to the 12th annual ball? “Damn, this is crazy.” We were jostled with the crowd into the circular flow of the aquarium’s layout, from DJ R.DOT’s groove spot to the open bars under the wraparound awning’s white lights just outside the main entrance. In the Great Hall, Quiana Parler and Friends jammed with a fast-paced rendition of “Walking on Sunshine.”

Walking initially proved difficult — pedestrian and dancer traffic got clogged by the first-floor escalators. Alas, there was movement in the lemur enclosure, where two young ladies sat (by way of observation bubble) and toasted onlookers with a Bud Light and a noisemaker. Around the corner, a couple climbed through a faux tree trunk and a guy pretended to row a red canoe in the Mini-Gascar toddler play area.

The only place the animals seemed more entrancing than the guests was the Ocean Room, with the blue-glowing shark tank. Some were so inspired by the music and the sea-life backdrop that they hopped onto the seating area and started doing “the wobble” up against the glass. It was only fitting when someone pointed out that Charlestonians love to “get dressed up to get messed up.” Because dressed up they were, with a mélange of cocktail dresses, gowns, tuxes, pocket squares, and ties with infinity knots.

For the non-celebratory cynics who consider every New Year’s Eve a letdown, the ball was blemished by just one dramatic event: the women’s bathroom line converged with the coat-check line outside the Sea Turtle Café. Confusion ensued, but was gradually dispelled as the ladies started to catch wind of a secret bathroom in a waterside trailer. One woman turned and said, “Don’t tell anyone else.”

Lips zipped, we returned to the shark tank, where the lights through the water had been dimmed. “The fish have to sleep,” a guest clarified. And we had to ring in the New Year. Champagne flowed into plastic stemware and DJ Natty Heavy led the crowd in the countdown to midnight. Cheers rose, kisses landed, champagne sloshed, and the voice of Britney Spears was one of the first sounds we heard in 2013.

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