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Y2K It Wasn't, but It Was a Party

Celebrations: More subdued than a year ago, festivities greeting the new millennium include a bash underground, fireworks and a high heel fit for a queen.

January 01, 2001|From Associated Press

With cheers, fireworks and hugs, the third millennium officially began in the continental United States--a more subdued celebration than a year ago but, for many, still a great opportunity to party.

The year 2001 clicked over in a chilly Times Square in New York City, while fireworks sprang to life along the Delaware River and New Englanders paused from digging out after their first major blizzard in five years.

Former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali was given the honor of pressing the button that sent a shimmering Waterford crystal-covered ball down a pole atop One Times Square, lighting a 7-foot-high "2001."

"You've gotta do this once in your life," said Eric Robertson, visiting from Ottawa, Canada, with his wife. "This is unreal. This isn't really happening."

America's official timekeeper, the U.S. Naval Observatory, arranged to mark the new millennium accurately with a celebration for 3,000 people at its Washington headquarters. Under the widely used Gregorian calendar, which started with the year 1, the third millennium begins Jan. 1, 2001.

Las Vegas and Denver also threw "real millennium" bashes, with hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on fireworks, to make up for fizzled celebrations last year.

In Boston, officials orchestrating the long-running Big Dig highway project threw an underground New Year's Eve party, opening the tunnels of the world's largest construction project to revelers.

Detroit had more to celebrate than just the dawning of the new year--2001 marks its 300th birthday, and its major New Year's Gala incorporated the opening of a time capsule from 1901.

Elsewhere, however, the New Year's celebrations were less involved than last year's. Los Angeles officials nixed plans for another grand hurrah after the $6-million bash to ring in 2000 bombed amid cold winter rain. Five New Year's Eve events drew an estimated 18,700 last year, even though 87,000 tickets were given away.

"The only time the city has ever focused on a citywide celebration was for the Y2K, which ended up being rained out," said Peter Hidalgo, a spokesman for Mayor Richard Riordan.

In Arkansas, where more than 55,000 homes and businesses were without power nearly a week after a Christmas Day ice storm, officials weren't anticipating large-scale celebrations. But club owners still planned for a respectable turnout, despite the ice and snow.

"The weather is hurting us a little, but we haven't had that many cancellations," said Marvin Stewart, general manager of the New Orleans Hotel in Eureka Springs, Ark. A bigger problem for some clubs was that New Year's Eve fell on a Sunday this year and many Arkansas clubs don't have Sunday liquor permits.

New Year's organizers in Fredericksburg, Va., decided New York could keep its Big Apple--they created a 6-foot-wide pear, chosen for the Bradford pear trees lining city streets, to drop from a downtown building at midnight.

But it It may have been the revelers at the Bourbon Street Pub in Key West, Fla., who had the strangest New Year's Eve celebration on tap: the dropping of a red, 6-foot high-heel shoe carrying drag queen Sushi from a balcony at the stroke of midnight.

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