Crowds ring in New Year's with fireworks, kisses

Sunday, January 2, 2005

NEW YORK -- Revelers from Times Square to downtown Los Angeles welcomed 2005 amid elaborate celebrations that included dazzling fireworks, laser lights and music.

Many said they hoped the new year would bring peace to all corners of the world, especially Iraq. Others prayed for tsunami victims in South Asia, saying the tragedy would be on their minds as the new year dawned.

In the West, people crowded Las Vegas' strip to mark a New Year's Eve party billed as the nation's largest outside Times Square. Thousands of people celebrated at hotels, clubs and even a food court-turned-nightclub.

Thousands of revelers in downtown Los Angeles partied in the new year with international DJs and carnival rides. Laser lights danced off high-rise office buildings as people waving glow sticks, jammed the wide streets and danced to electronic beats into the wee hours.

In New York, revelers celebrated the 100th annual New Year's countdown in Times Square. And, for the first time in 32 years, the party went on without Dick Clark, who was recovering from a stroke.

Nearly a million people filled Times Square, the festive mood broken only by a moment of silence honoring those killed in the earthquake and tsunami in South Asia.

The crowd broke into a chorus of "Auld Lang Syne" after the 1,000-pound Waterford crystal ball made its descent from atop 1 Times Square.

Outgoing Secretary of State Colin Powell, a native New Yorker, pressed a giant button with Mayor Michael Bloomberg to begin the ball's descent.

"In my lifetime I've served in many places around the world, and wherever I happened to be the turn of the year just didn't feel right unless I had in some way seen or heard about the ball coming down on time," Powell said Friday.

As in recent years, police boats, helicopters, bomb squads and thousands of officers were on patrol around the city, and officers armed with radiation detectors and bomb-sniffing dogs were deployed in Times Square.

Few disruptions were reported with the festivities.

A few blocks from Times Square, police arrested a man who was found carrying a loaded rifle Friday night. The incident briefly closed 33rd Street, but most revelers didn't notice.

In Las Vegas, a brief power outage darkened marquees. Police said a balloon hit a power transformer, causing a short-circuit.

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