Jan Shook takes Charlie and Nicole Hibbs’ photo during The Daily Grind & Wine’s “Self Snap” photo backdrop at the New Year’s Eve party.

SCOUTING AROUND: Welcoming the new year with Ireland

   Champagne toasts welcomed the new year as black, gold and white balloons fell to the floor at 7 p.m. Sunday, when The Daily Grind & Wine in downtown Murphy continued local tradition by celebrating the new year with Dublin, Ireland, for the 18th year.
   Throughout the night, about 150 people of all ages danced to music provided by DJ Mad Hatter Chad Johnson as a huge screen showed a live view of the sold-out festivities in Dublin.
   Lyn Manning and her husband, Dick, have visited from Sarasota, Fla., to celebrate the new year at The Daily Grind at least eight times.
   “This is so much fun, New Year’s at 7 o’clock,” said Manning, who lives in Murphy during the summer months. “You can go to bed or go somewhere else.”
   She said last year they went to Doyle’s, which burned only days later, after celebrating at The Daily Grind. This year, they were going to Bistro 29’s first New Year’s Eve Speak Easy party afterward.
   One group that enjoyed the early night was Nancy Melton’s family. Her parents, who visit her in Murphy from High Point, have celebrated with her at The Daily Grind for the last five years.
   “It’s a great crowd, a great time,” Melton said.
   Others, like Christine Stacy, liked that the early night meant that her young children could enjoy the festivities by dressing up in party outfits, dancing with other kids and playing with balloons.
   Owner Matt Lowe’s favorite thing was seeing the variety of people enjoying the night – not just the young and old, but people from all over the country.
   “They’re just new people who heard about the place and came by,” he said, while wearing a red onesie and formal black tie to go with the “pajamas and pearls” suggested dress code.
   Lowe said there were people who came from as far as California to celebrate the new year in Murphy. Earlier in the week, though, a reporter from Dublin stopped by to learn more about how the restaurant celebrates with Ireland.
   Lowe was happy to continue the tradition started by the previous owners, Dave and Amy Johnson, as it draws people downtown.

Missing dog found two years later
   The Valley River Humane Society was able to provide a Christmas surprise to a family that was missing its dog for two years.
   Blue Jean, a petite lab mix, was less than 6 months old when she went missing from her home in Acworth, Ga., near Kennesaw, about two years ago.
   Late Christmas morning, a woman found a skinny black dog on Joe Brown Highway and called the humane society. The dog was a little skittish at first, nothing but skin and bones, said Brittany Black, the clinic technician. She also was lactating, showing she had given birth to a litter, but the puppies were nowhere to be found.
   At the animal shelter in Marble, the staff found the dog had been chipped, and it was Blue Jean. Black called the owner.
   “They were really excited,” Black said. “The owners have called a couple of times to talk to her.”
   The humane society is holding Blue Jean for a couple of weeks to put a little weight on her so she is healthy when she returns home to her owner, as well as her mother and brother. When she was picked up Christmas Day, she only weighed 30 pounds. A dog like her should weigh 50-55 pounds.
   Samantha Sinclair is Scouting Around columnist for the Cherokee Scout. You can reach her by email, scoutingaround@cherokeescout.com; fax, 837-5832; or by leaving a message in the office at 837-5122.