December 31, 2005

New York’s Times Square fills with New Year crowd

By Chris Michaud

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New Year's Eve revelers swarmed into
New York's Times Square on Saturday to greet 2006, undeterred
by cold, wet weather and tight security.

The Times Square celebration was to mark the return of Dick
Clark, who became a fixture on holiday television with his live
"New Year's Rockin' Eve" show, which he started in 1972. Clark,
76, once known for his perpetually youthful appearance, missed
last year's New Year's Eve show after suffering a stroke.

Police were expecting 1 million people to gather for the
101st New Year's celebration in Times Square. They came from
all over the United States and began arriving Saturday morning
to stake out prime spots so they could watch as a giant crystal
ball is lowered at midnight to ring in the new year.

The bash began when the ball was lighted and raised at 6
p.m. Entertainers including Mary J. Blige and Mariah Carey were
to perform.

Security was a primary concern amid the festive atmosphere,
even though Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said there were no
specific threats against the city.

Police officers led bomb-sniffing dogs throughout the party
zone while biochemical hazard teams and decontamination centers
were all on standby in case of attack. A mobile laboratory was
also on hand to test the air for suspicious substances.

Metal detectors were used to check the revelers and large
bags and backpacks were banned from the area. Snipers were
deployed on rooftops while helicopters circled the area and
police patrolled the city's waterways on boats.

The celebrants had to endure temperatures in the mid-30s,
as well as rain. Wet snow was in the forecast.

Some came just to see Clark, since it is uncertain if he
would be part of next year's show.

"We're here for Dick Clark," Roger Travis, visiting with
his daughter and son-in-law from Manchester, England, told
local media. "We love him and we think this could be his last."

The Clark loyalists included locals as well, including
Frank Cruz, 26, from suburban Melville, New York.

"Dick Clark is New Year's Eve," he said. "If this is his
last year, we wanted to be here in Times Square."

For others there was just no other place to mark the end of
2005 and the start of 2006.

"This is the best place to be," said Challey Masters, 18,
of Raleigh, Illinois, who came with members of a softball team
and claimed a spot at 10 a.m. "It's one big party."

U.S. President George W. Bush planned to have a New Year's
Eve dinner of steak and tamales at his Crawford, Texas, ranch
with his wife Laura and her mother.

Asked whether early bird Bush would stay up until midnight
to greet 2006, White House spokesman Trent Duffy replied:
"We'll find out tomorrow."