Lights, art to greet 2001

First Night returns for 11th year, stressing family fun

Alcohol-free celebration

A giant, blue crab to mark countdown to the new year

December 28, 2000|By Stephanie Desmon | Stephanie Desmon,SUN STAFF

Forget stocking up on bottled water and hoarding cash. No Y2K worries this year.

In Annapolis, the biggest New Year's Eve concern might be how to catch the circus and the Andean flute music and Shakespeare and still get a good spot for the fireworks display over the harbor.

First Night Annapolis will ring in 2001 with its 11th annual alcohol-free family event spread out among more than 40 indoor and outdoor spots throughout the city's historic district beginning at 3 p.m. and lasting through the stroke of midnight. That's when a giant, lighted blue crab will be "cooked" red and flash "2001" to mark the new year (and in some circles, the new millennium).

"We provide a non-alcoholic New Year's Eve celebration of the arts," said Elizabeth Melvin, program manager for First Night. "It's all within walking distance."

There will be twice as much children's programming as there was last year, Melvin said, including face painting, puppet shows, storytelling and silly music.

At Imagination Station - a new name, at least for the night, for Dahlgren Hall at the U.S. Naval Academy - children can make masks and percussion instruments and build all kinds of structures with 8,000 blocks on hand.

At City Dock, the grown-ups get their chance at using their imaginations. Alongside Linthicum artist Conrad Bladey's creation, "The Magnet Truck," decorated with magnetized Barbie dolls bundled up against the cold, and other so-called "Art Cars," will be an unadorned vehicle ready to be transformed into a masterpiece with old computer parts.

"They can bring their own or we'll have a whole stack of them there," Melvin said.

The inaugural First Night took place in Boston in 1976 at the close of the city's bicentennial festivities. Now more than 200 First Night celebrations take place from Annapolis to Auckland. Four are in Maryland - the others taking place in Easton, Frederick and Silver Spring.

In 1990, about 5,000 people attended the Annapolis celebration. More than 20,000 are expected for Sunday's event, which organizers say will take place snow or shine.

At the Naval Academy's Ministry Center, Atlanta actor Doug Lothes will take the stage four times Sunday evening, playing 14 different characters.

His "Gone With the Wind in 20 Minutes" is new to Annapolis, but not to New Year's Eve. Lothes has been performing for years, regaling friends in night clubs and at his former New York apartment - not far from Times Square, long the standard for New Year's celebrations.

The act, which hits the major plot points of the classic Clark Gable-Vivien Leigh film, just came to him 15 years ago as he performed at an open-mike night. "The muses sat on my shoulder and whispered what I should do," he said this week. "I've never been what they call a `Windy,' the people who are really into it, like Trekkies. But it has always fascinated me."

Lothes doesn't change costumes or sets as he builds up to the crescendo when he does Scarlet - not only in the style of Leigh, but how actresses Bette Davis and Katharine Hepburn might have played the role. Davis and Hepburn were two top vote-getters in a poll taken when the film was made on who should get the role, Lothes said.

"They get a little taste of what it might have been like if someone else had played Scarlet," he said.

Bill Barker as president and statesman Thomas Jefferson is a First Night Annapolis staple. He hasn't missed one yet. This year, at the Masonic Temple on Conduit Street which was once the site of a tavern where Jefferson stayed, he'll perform Jefferson's inaugural address from 1801, which followed a highly contentious election that ended in an Electoral College tie.

The message of unity foreshadows a similar election of 2000 that practically ended in a tie. He'll take questions, but don't expect much commentary on today's politics.

"I speak in the first person," explained Barker, who works summers at Colonial Williamsburg. "So if someone asks, `What do you think of George W. Bush?' I will ask, `Who is that?' and hope to find some sort of correlation between today and yesterday."

Admission buttons are on sale at $15 for ages 13 and older, and $10 for children, at Giant Food and other stores. The day of the event, they can be purchased at the Church Circle post office, the Visitor's Center kiosk at City Dock, and Navy-Marine Corps Stadium on Rowe Boulevard, where parking will be available for $5 with free shuttle service all night.

A complete schedule of events can be found at www.firstnightannapolis.org and programs will be available at each performance venue.

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