Wednesday, April 23, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
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Ball drops in NYC’s Times Square, ushering in 2014

NEW YORK — A sea of horn-tooting, funny hat-wearing revelers cheered (and some even smooched) as the famed crystal ball dropped in freezing New York City’s Times Square to ring in 2014, capping a world-wide wave of celebrations that included a dazzling 30-minute fireworks show in Dubai and a deluge of confetti in London that tasted as good as it looked.

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, was sitting the celebration out 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.”

New York’s midnight celebration came as millions of people welcomed the new year in cities around the world, including jubilant events in London, where the fireworks came packed with edible confetti, and Dubai, which attempted to stage the world’s largest fireworks display.

Brianna Becerril, a singer and songwriter from Chino persuaded her grandparents to join her at Times Square. As evening fell, they huddled together for warmth under big, furry hats, dined on cold chicken nuggets and drank nothing so they wouldn’t have to leave to find a toilet.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience!” Becerril said.

“Once in a lifetime for me, for sure. I mean, if I even survive. I can’t wait to get out of here,” said her smiling grandfather, Jerry Bender. But, he said, he was enjoying getting to know their neighbors in the pen, many of whom hailed from distant countries.

Even when she lived in Algeria in North Africa, Merrir said, she knew that Times Square was the place the world celebrated best on New Year’s Eve.

“It’s Times Square! It’s the ball!” she said. “The fireworks may be better in Dubai, or in London, but this is extra special.”

On the other side of the Atlantic, Britain welcomed 2014 with a mixture of futuristic fireworks and torch-lit tradition. For those in London, the event offered the opportunity to taste the fireworks.

The city’s mayor, in conjunction with telecommunications company Vodafone, 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 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. It was not immediately clear if the promised designs or world record had been achieved.

The effort attempted to surpass the current world record held by another Gulf Arab state in just the first 60 seconds. Kuwait has held the record since last year, when it fired more than 77,000 fireworks in a display lasting more than an hour.

Guinness World Record officials were on hand to measure the scale of Dubai’s event, which needed to be longer than five minutes to qualify.

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 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.”

Back in New York, outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who hobnobbed with celebrities during past Times Square celebrations, was sitting out this year’s festivities to spend time with family and friends. Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio was to be sworn in at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday at his Brooklyn home.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a New York native, was to lead the final 60-second countdown and push the ceremonial button to drop the ball.

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

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