- The Washington Times - Monday, December 30, 2002

There will be zydeco music and bead-making, noisemakers and magic but what looks like Mardi Gras really will be the opening of First Night Annapolis on New Year's Eve.

First Night Annapolis, one of three First Night celebrations around the Washington area, is kicking off its New Year's Eve events with an expanded "First Act" geared toward families with young children. The First Act begins at 3 p.m. at the Naval Academy's Halsey Fieldhouse.

The First Act's Mardi Gras theme will set the tone for an evening of family-oriented celebration, says Cindy Edson, spokeswoman for First Night Annapolis.

"The First Act program will feature lots of hands-on activities such as mask-making, beads and a ventriloquist," Ms. Edson says. "There will also be inflatable games, such as a sumo wrestling ring and suits and a moon bounce."

First Night Annapolis, which will include more than 100 acts, is one of 130 official First Night celebrations taking place around the United States. The tradition of offering an alcohol-free community celebration to ring in the new year began in Boston in 1976. First Night usually features a wide variety of musical groups, drama and dance performances and art exhibits to appeal to the whole family.

Other highlights of the Annapolis event include "Gone With the Wind in 20 Minutes," with Atlanta actor Doug Lothes presenting highlights of the classic book; Shakespeare's Skum, a group that will perform "Macbeth" in 20 minutes or less; the Del Marvas oldies band; gypsy fortune tellers; and the Pathways Resolution Project, in which patrons can write out their hopes and wishes for the new year.

First Night Annapolis, which drew 16,000 visitors last New Year's Eve, will culminate with fireworks over City Dock at midnight, Ms. Edson says.

First Night Leesburg will feature more than 100 performers at 20 locations in the historic district. Some of the highlights of the Leesburg event include singer and guitarist Charlie Waller; the Loudoun Border Guard fife and drum corps; and bluegrass, country, folk, rock and gospel acts. The Leesburg event will end with fireworks at the courthouse at midnight.

First Night Leesburg also has acts and events geared toward families with younger children. Those acts will begin at 6 p.m. Check at the First Night booths the day of the event for the exact schedule and location information.

In Old Town Alexandria, First Night festivities will begin at 5 p.m. Some of the children's activities will include a tae kwon do demonstration at the George Washington Masonic Memorial and storytelling at A Likely Story children's bookstore. The Jefferson Houston School will host puppet shows, face painters, clowns, balloon artists and several children's musical performances from 5 to 9 p.m.

Other acts scheduled to appear at the various Old Town locations include the Funshine Children's Choir; the Trumpet Kings Gospel Choir; blues singer Ruby Hayes; African dance troupe Bassama; Scottish fiddler Bonnie Rideout; flutist Teresa Meeks; and folk, bluegrass, a cappella, Irish and soul groups.

First Night Alexandria, which drew 5,000 visitors last Dec. 31, will feature fireworks over the Amtrak train station at midnight.

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