- The Washington Times - Monday, January 1, 2007

Tight security keeps throng well-behaved

NEW YORK (AP) — Hundreds of thousands of revelers from all over the world rang in the new year at the city’s massive holiday party in Times Square.

Dick Clark was back as co-host with Ryan Seacrest on ABC’s “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” broadcast for the second time since a stroke caused him to skip a broadcast in 2004.

The world-famous Waterford crystal ball began its drop at 11:59 p.m. and 60 seconds later, partiers in Times Square, joined by million of TV viewers, broke out their cheers, blew their horns, and tossed confetti and balloons.

“Once again, we see there’s nothing like New York on New Year’s Eve,” Mr. Clark said.

His appearance last year was an abbreviated one in which he acknowledged that his illness had left him in “bad shape.” But this year, though his speech and movements were still affected, he helped lead the countdown to midnight.

Security was tight in and around Times Square. Police said everything was going according to plan, and there had been no reports of unruly revelers. The partygoers were in high spirits, cheering and joking as the celebration began about 6 p.m. with live music.

Greg First and his 14-year-old daughter, Erika, traveled from Livonia, Mich., outside Detroit, to attend the event.

“I’ve watched this for 40 years on TV, no joke,” said Mr. First, 43. “I wanted to be here just once.”

The two had been waiting since 10 a.m. and brought food so they wouldn’t have to move. Once people leave, there’s no chance of getting back to the front-row spots.

Spectators had to pass through police checkpoints. No big bags or backpacks were permitted, and bomb-sniffing dogs roamed the crowd. Public drinking was banned again, and visitors were being herded into a series of viewing pens that prevented them from barhopping.

A lack of alcohol didn’t bother Lena Zellers, 22, of Pittsburgh, who was attending the event for the first time with friends from New Jersey. She wore a “Happy New Year” tiara and “2007” sunglasses with her eyes poking through the zeros.

“I came here to be here, not to be in a bar down the street,” she said. “You can drink anytime.”

An unprecedented 3.5 tons of confetti were expected to be dumped on the crowd during the relatively warm evening. Visitors are expected to spend tens of millions of dollars on food, booze and souvenirs, capping what some are calling the city’s busiest tourism year to date.

By midafternoon, police were corralling spectators in and around three performance stages set up for the show. More than a dozen major acts performed during the evening, including pop singer Christina Aguilera, the rap group Three 6 Mafia, country band Rascal Flatts, R&B; singer Toni Braxton and the cast of the Broadway musical “Jersey Boys.”

The Texas band Radiant kicked off the event, when the famously flashy New Year’s Eve ball was raised to the top of a flagpole. Cheerleaders from a Long Island high school performed, and organizers doled out red “2007” top hats, noisemakers and bright blue pompoms to those standing nearest the stages.

Revelers practiced several countdowns to 2007 in the hours before the show, complete with cheers and New Year’s kisses. A U.S. serviceman got down on his knees to propose to his girlfriend during a segment on NBC’s show.

“This is the center of the universe,” said Raffael Dalvise, who lives outside Venice, Italy, and traveled to the city for the holiday. “There is no other place to be.”

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