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New Year's celebrations ring in 2014 coast to coast

8:44 AM, Jan 1, 2014   |    comments
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NEW YORK - A world-wide wave of celebrations rang in 2014 with a dazzling 30-minute fireworks show in Dubai, a deluge of confetti in London that tasted as good as it looked and a lavish, boozy music-filled party throughout the streets of Las Vegas.

In freezing New York City's Times Square, a sea of horn-tooting, hat-wearing revelers cheered and some even smooched as the famed crystal ball dropped at midnight.

Bronx-born U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor led the 60-second countdown and pushed the button that unleashed the shimmering orb with 2,688 crystals, a role usually filled by the New York City mayor.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, on his last day in office, sat out the celebration after 12 years on the job, while newly elected Mayor Bill de Blasio took the oath of office just after midnight at his Brooklyn home.

Kerrie McConaghy, 20, a university student visiting Times Square from Armagh, Ireland, was dancing and jumping up and down, donning a big blue top hat.

"It's unbelievable here," she said. "The lights, seeing the ball, hearing the music, all the people. It's amazing."

"TV doesn't do this justice," she said. "You have to be here to believe it."

Marcus Ix, 34, visiting from Germany, gave his wife, Sabrina, a big kiss when the ball dropped and confetti rained down.

"This is the best New Year's Eve of my life," he said as the crowd erupted with cheers and cries of "Happy New Year!" ''It was worth the 13 hour wait in the cold."

The annual New York celebration, which this year featured performances from artists such as Miley Cyrus, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Blondie, has become part endurance sport because post-9/11 security measures force spectators into pens at least 12 hours in advance, with no food, warmth or bathrooms.

"We've got adult diapers. We're wearing them right now," said 14-year-old Amber Woods, who came with friends from the New York City's suburbs to experience the event for the first time. They entered their corral at 10 a.m. Tuesday. For nourishment, they brought lollipops and popcorn. For the cold, they did a lot of jumping in place.

"Every time I say, it's the last. But then I come back," said Yasmina Merrir, a 42-year-old Washington, D.C., resident attending her fourth Times Square ball drop. In 2009, the cold was so bad, she got hypothermia. Her legs swelled up like balloons.

Merrir was fasting and not drinking anything to deal with the lack of restrooms. As for the cold, she recommended vigorous dancing for as long as you can stand on your feet.

"At a point," she said, "your brain is not working anymore."

Las Vegas held one its biggest ever New Year's Eve celebrations, with sold-out concerts and an eight-minute long fireworks show that was billed as the largest in the country. The Minus5 Ice Bar Mandalay Bay started handing out free champagne for hourly toasts at 11 a.m. Tourists were seen toting novelty drinks into casinos by noon.

Big-ticket musical acts Bruno Mars, John Legend and Maroon 5 helped lure 335,000 visitors to Las Vegas by nightfall on Tuesday - 5,000 more than last year, tourism officials said.

On the other side of the Atlantic, London welcomed 2014 with a mixture of futuristic fireworks and torch-lit tradition. The city's mayor said this year's explosive display came packed with peach-flavored snow, edible banana confetti and orange-scented bubbles. The evening also included scratch-and-sniff programs, LED wristbands and fruit-flavored sweets.

In Russia, where two suicide bombings in two days killed 34 people, eerily empty busses lumbered through the streets of Volgograd, where authorities canceled mass events for New Year's Eve and asked residents not to set off fireworks.

President Vladimir Putin, in his New Year's Eve address to the nation, vowed that the fight against terrorists will continue "until their destruction is complete," Russian news agencies reported.

In Dubai, a Persian Gulf city known for glitz, glamour and over-the-top achievements like the world's tallest skyscraper, officials sought to break another record by creating the largest fireworks show.

The Dubai skyline was a canvas for a dazzling 30-minute show. The display capped off with six minutes of fireworks that engulfed the city's man-made, palm-shaped island, with its fronds and trunk shimmering in thousands of lights. Organizers had promised that the fireworks would form a flying falcon, a sunrise and the United Arab Emirates flag.

More than 260 people were injured by firecracker blasts and celebratory gunfire in the Philippines, a nation marking the end of a year of tragic disasters, including a Nov. 8 typhoon that left more than 6,100 dead and nearly 1,800 missing.

"Many here are welcoming the new year after losing their mothers, fathers, siblings and children so you can imagine how it feels," said village chief Maria Rosario Bactol of the Anibong community in Tacloban, the city worst hit by Typhoon Haiyan. "I tell them to face the reality, to move on and stand up, but I know it will never be easy."

Associated Press

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