- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Families with children were among the first people out last night to celebrate New Year’s Eve.

Thousands of them went to Annapolis, Alexandria and Leesburg, Va., to see sculptures by Tibetan monks or to sing, dance and take part in a variety of First Night activities.

“It’s just pint-sized fun,” said Paula Hansen, who was with her husband, Todd, and their children, 18-month-old Julia and Jordon, 5, on King Street in Alexandria.

Mrs. Hansen said the family also went last year to First Night but would not stay until midnight because it was too late for the children, especially Julia who sat bundled in a stroller.

The alcohol-free events began in Alexandria at 6 p.m. with a children’s choir.

Adults and teens each paid $15 to see 50 acts on 34 stages, including Irish bands, puppet shows and tap dancers, said Ann Dorman, the event’s executive director.

The headline acts included the comedy-music troupe DaVinci’s Notebook and rockabilly singer Bill Kirchen. The events concluded with midnight fireworks.

Many who attended were parents with toddlers strolling beneath the white Christmas lights that line King Street.

The Uptown Cafe attracted passers-by with window signs advertising hot cocoa and cider. Michael Hurwitz and his wife, Joan, sat inside while their 2-year-old daughter, Julia, chewed a bagel.

Mrs. Hurwitz said it took some work to get her husband to celebrate the new year this way.

“Every once in a while I do what I am told,” Mr. Hurwitz said.

Paul Kentes, 10, was among the roughly 150 volunteers at First Night in Alexandria and was back to see a comedian.

“I was cracking up [last year] and could not breathe,” he said.

Alexandria police had more officers on duty but reported no incidents with about five hours before the celebration culminated with a fireworks display.

Tibetan monks creating mandala sand paintings, an art form dating back thousands of years, was among the highlights at First Night in Annapolis. The city has staged New Year’s Eve celebrations for 14 years, and about 20,000 participants were expected last night.

The events started just before sunset and included storytelling, music and a petting zoo. Other acts include the BalletTheatre of Maryland, guitarist Eddie Brooks and the comedy-music act Danzig and Woolley. The events were scheduled to conclude at midnight with fireworks over the City Dock.

The cool, but relatively mild night brought large crowds throughout the metropolitan area.

“It’s wonderful,” said Rebecca Valois, 28, who was in Alexandria. “It’s not freezing and no umbrellas.”

Most of the major roads into the District — including Key Bridge and New York Avenue — were crowded but no major accidents were reported as revelers traveled to their celebrations.

The heightened-security alert did not appear to keep party-goers out of the District.

The National Millennium New Year’s Eve Party at the Grand Hyatt at 1000 H St. NW was sold out.

Adams Morgan was crowded as midnight approached, but most people were inside the clubs and restaurants, not walking along the streets like they do on most weekend nights.

Police officers were stationed along the 18th Street NW corridor but reported no problems.

Tim Kearns, 26, and his friend Carrie Robinson, 26, live nearby and tried to get an early start by walking to Adams Morgan before 9 p.m.

“We’re meeting some friends, and we thought we’d get here early,” Mr. Kearns said. “But I’m not sure we were early enough.”

Taxi cabs were everywhere, as expected, but calling for one was a problem because phone lines to dispatchers remained busy through most of the night.

D.C. police officials said the city was relatively quite except for two shootings in Northeast — one at 18th and C streets, and another on 14th Street and Randolph Road.

Sgt. Joe Gentile, a D.C. police spokesman, had few details about the shootings but said nobody was killed.

U.S. Capitol, U.S. Park, Montgomery County and Metro police reported no problems as of 10:30 p.m.

Chief Charles H. Ramsey said more surveillance cameras were added to the city’s network of 14 permanent cameras.

Metro police joined federal and other law-enforcement officials last night in a joint command center in which they watched feeds from the cameras and prepared for a security threat.

Chief Ramsey said no days off for officers were canceled for last night, but that the department was on restricted leave. He also said if an emergency occurred, officers would go on 12-hour shifts and vacationing officers would be recalled.

However, Chief Ramsey said he had no knowledge of a direct threat to the District.

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