Festivities kick off 2001 after Ravens' victory

Parties: Revelers welcome the millennium at celebrations in Baltimore and Annapolis.

January 01, 2001|By Alec MacGillis, Sarah Koenig and Stephanie Desmon | By Alec MacGillis, Sarah Koenig and Stephanie Desmon,SUN STAFF

The triumph of the hometown football team was a hard act to follow, but thousands of Marylanders showed that an afternoon playoff win was a mere prelude to a night's worth of New Year's celebrations capped by waterfront fireworks at midnight.

"I'm cold but I had a good time," said Ed Adams of Perry Hall as couples embraced around him at 12:01 this morning at the Inner Harbor. "This is the real millennium change and the mood's great."

In Baltimore, thousands thronged the Inner Harbor to dance and skate away the cold and to admire a fireworks extravaganza that organizers promised would outdo last year's display. They were from as close as the bars in Federal Hill that tided revelers over between the Ravens game and nighttime festivities and as far as Stafford, Va.

That's the hometown of the Lax family, who made the 90-minute drive from Northern Virginia so the kids could witness a bona fide New Year's Eve celebration. The children were shivering mightily, but agreed the party was worth the trip.

"I like the look," Matt Lax, 11, said approvingly of the crowded harbor.

Nearby, puppeteers were busy making last-minute adjustments to their stilt-based creations for the second annual MasqueParade, which teetered down Pratt Street at 10 p.m. An ice king, a larger-than-life Edgar Allan Poe, a phoenix and a colorful Gypsy were among those in this year's lineup, which organizers hope to make a New Year's Eve mainstay.

In Annapolis, organizers of that city's 11th annual First Night celebration expected more than 20,000 people, despite the bone-chilling winds that whipped down Main Street.

Vendor Dan Wessel was optimistic as he stood on Main Street selling party supplies for those in need. His biggest seller: "head-boppers," headbands with springy lighted New Year's greetings attached like antennae. He had a stack of horns (from the $1 paper variety to a jumbo horn for $5) and anything else a partygoer might need.

"These horns will be gone by 9 or 10 [p.m.]," predicted Wessel, a First Night volunteer.

Although temperatures were about normal, the wind chill - 20 mph winds with gusts up to 28 - made it feel like single-digit temperatures, said Michele K. Margraf, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va. By fireworks time, it would be colder in Baltimore, Annapolis and parts between.

"When you get on a street full of people even in the midst of winter, you kind of forget about the chill," said Michael Buckley, a producer and programmer at WRNR-FM in Annapolis.

Buckley was overseeing an Art Car on the dock, an old brown van that was being decorated with outdated computer keyboards and chips to become, folks hoped, a piece of art.

Wendi Winters has First Night Annapolis down to a science. Arrive early with children in tow. Make silly hats from newspaper and metallic ribbon. Maybe catch a Russian circus making an appearance in the capital this week. Take everyone home for dinner and bring everyone back in time to welcome 2001 with fireworks over Spa Creek.

"It's a family thing and it's fun and it sort of seems cruel to celebrate New Year's Eve in a nice restaurant in a fancy dress while your kids are home eating pizza and watching Dick Clark age on TV," said the Arnold mother of four. "If we make it to fireworks, because I'm still a kid, I'll be happy."

Revelers at the Inner Harbor felt the same way- why miss a rare event that allowed adults and children to celebrate side by side?

"It's tough to find something to do on New Year's for people of all ages," said Tony Russo of Elkridge, as he laced up his son Tony Jr.'s skates at the Inner Harbor rink. Tony, age 4, seemed unfazed by the chill, if only because he had other things on his mind: "Dad, I'm hungry" he repeated.

Yvonne Green agreed, from the slightly different perspective of a parent with teen-agers: "It's really good for the children," said the Reisterstown mother. "At least you don't have to worry about where they're at."

Not that many young people weren't on hand to enjoy the festivities unchaperoned. Doug Petrick of Bel Air, 18, took his girlfriend Emily Woodard, 18, to the Inner Harbor for a full night on the town: dinner at ESPN Zone, followed by skating and swaying to the Motown covers of Soul Society.

Woodard was dressed for the occasion in a sequined dress - an outfit that made her a little out of place at ESPN Zone, not that she minded. "I thought he was going to take me somewhere else," she said, laughing. "Everyone else had little horns and hats on."

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