Happily, without a hitch

At New Year's events, violence, Y2K woes prove to be no-shows, Fireworks, galas, glitz, 1 million watch a ball drop in Times Square

in Ohio, it was a fish

The Dawning Of 2000

January 01, 2000|By Ann LoLordo | By Ann LoLordo,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

The night skies over America exploded in fireworks today as revelers from Times Square to Honolulu celebrated the year 2000 with rollicking street parties, gospel singing, millennial toasts and New Year's wishes.

In cities and towns across the country, Americans counted down the new year as it rolled across the globe, from the South Pacific island of Tonga to the Pyramids to Paris. And when midnight came to their time zones, bells rang in Kentucky and Pennsylvania. Kazoos blared in Milford, Mich.

From Las Vegas to Washington, an array of Hollywood and Broadway stars sang, danced, performed orchestral compositions and delivered celebratory readings to welcome the new year.

The celebrations were jubilant, emotional and apparently unmarred by violence.

Although the country seemed intent on celebrating, law enforcement officials across the nation braced for a possible terrorist attack. The arrests of two Algerians suspected of being terrorists -- one in New York on Thursday -- kept the fears of an incident alive. In Manhattan, manhole covers in the Times Square area were sealed. Garbage cans -- possible bomb recepticles -- were pulled off the streets. In Seattle, still shaken by last month's World Trade Organization riots, fears of unrest led to the cancellation of the main public event.

If Americans watched the world celebrating, the world tuned in to the Big Apple. And the scene there was typically over the top. Confetti fell as if it were a blizzard. More than a million people jammed into Times Square to watch the ball drop at the city's annual New Year's fete, an event as hyped as the Y2K scare.

And what a ball it was.

A 1,000-pounder, made of Waterford crystal and dubbed the "Star of Hope," it slid down a 77-foot flagpole at 1 Times Square in a tradition that dates to 1907.

Not to be outdone, Raleigh, N.C. -- "the city of oaks" -- dropped a giant acorn 100 feet. Clinton, Ohio, took the tradition one step further. Known as the world's walleyed pike capital, this city on Lake Erie dropped an 18-foot fiberglass fish down a rope.

It was a night of laser-light shows and contemplative walks in the country, millennial marriages and clinking champagne glasses. While many Americans celebrated outdoors, Christian youngsters in Evansville, Ind., opted for candle-lighted catacombs and church basements to discuss their faith.

Though New Yorkers proclaimed their city the millennium capital, the nation's capital put on its own extravaganza on the National Mall. It featured a Steven Spielberg film essay for America, a Quincy Jones-produced spectacular with zoot-suited Will Smith, Tom Jones, the cast of "Chicago," Luther Vandross and others.

Fireworks, set off by a silver light-studded Washington Monument, capped the night's events as horns trumpeted. Green laser lights pierced the night sky.

With the famous statue of a sober-faced Abraham Lincoln peering down behind him, President Clinton, dressed in a tuxedo, addressed the throng.

"As powerful as our memories are, our dreams must be even stronger," Clinton said.

As the president spoke, a flash of light rolled from the Lincoln Memorial, down the Reflecting Pool and then up the Washington Monument at the other end. The light rose up the monument, striking the top as the clock struck midnight and fireworks burst high over the National Mall.

"It is the eternal destiny of America to remain forever young," Clinton told an audience of tens of thousands.

Though many Americans stocked up on batteries and bottled water just in case, year-end joviality seemed to offset Y2K jitters and concerns over a terrorist attack. Though Internet security experts had predicted that the new year would be a carnival for computer viruses and online vandals, all was quiet in cyberspace as the new year approached.

In New York, the streets of Times Square, which were closed to traffic, appeared impassable. Many revelers had camped out the night before to get a spot. Huge, overhead video screens broadcast the merriment on and off the stage as giant animal puppets maneuvered through the crowds. Thousands of police patrolled the streets, rooftops and subway stations.

Dustin Landis, of Green Lane, Pa., drove into New York with his wife and two daughters, 4 and 7. "When they grow up and someone asks where they were on New Year's Eve of the millennium, I just want them to be able to say, `Times Square,' " Landis said.

But the rest of America was not going to be outdone.

In Los Angeles, Californians were in a 2000-state of mind -- 2,000 folk dancers, 2,000 gospel singers, 2,000 drummers, a 2,000-member marching band all scheduled to perform in parts of the city. A steady rain, however, forced officials to send home the 2,000 line dancers who were to waiting to perform in Van Nuys.

The wet weather dampened the spirits of some city residents, prompting one to view it as apocryphal. A plastic bag thrown over her green jacket, a wet Laura Nava tried to paste flowers to a float for today's annual Tournament of Roses Parade.

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