Throngs crowd Times Square to ring in 2007; street cleaners among the last to leave the party

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

NEW YORK -- The big ball is not all that drops in Times Square on New Year's Eve.

As revelers headed home early Monday, the first day of 2007, work crews moved in to sweep up the remnants of 2006. Their mission: picking up 3.5 tons of confetti (a record-setting amount), as well as sandwich bags, food wrappers and other debris from the big bash.

"This is so sad," said spectator Anna Koenig of DeKalb, Ill. "Boy, are people going to be up late cleaning our mess."

More than 1 million people from all over the world gathered in Times Square for the celebration, according to WABC-TV. They greeted the new year with cheers, kisses and hope.

"It's been a long year, with the troops in Iraq and the problems overseas," said Frederic Henderson, of Newark, N.J. "I hope this year is better."

Amanda Bermudez, 19, also hoped 2007 would bring harmony in the Middle East, and offered some very personal reasons.

She came to Times Square on her honeymoon, having recently married Angel Bermudez, 21, in their hometown of Fort Hood, Texas. He is an Army soldier who recently returned from Iraq.

His new wife, who just found out she's pregnant, said she hoped for peace "so he doesn't have to go back."

Partygoers poured into Times Square long before the clock struck midnight to snag prime viewing spots. They cheered and joked as the celebration began around 6 p.m., and some practiced several countdowns to 2007 long before the actual hour.

"This is the center of the universe," said Raffael Dalvise, who traveled to New York for the holiday from his home outside Venice, Italy. "There is no other place to be."

Police were still compiling reports early Monday from the celebration, which had gone on amid tight security. Spectators passed through police checkpoints; no big bags or backpacks were permitted and bomb-sniffing dogs roamed the crowd.

Public drinking was banned, and visitors were herded into a series of viewing pens that prevented them from bar-hopping.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said last week that revelers would be "safer in Times Square on New Year's Eve than anyplace else," but he insisted that tight security would not spoil the show.

Three stages featured more than a dozen major acts, including the alternative-rock band My Chemical Romance, pop singer Christina Aguilera and the rap group Three 6 Mafia. Country band Rascal Flatts, R&B singer Toni Braxton and the cast of the Broadway musical "Jersey Boys" also performed.

Longtime host Dick Clark was back for ABC's "New Year's Rockin' Eve" broadcast for the second time since a stroke caused him to skip a broadcast in 2004. Speaking from a television studio, he co-hosted the event with Ryan Seacrest.

"It's still the biggest party in the world," a raspy-voiced Clark said about 20 minutes before the countdown.

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