January 1, 2007
By MATT BURGARD And STEVEN GOODE, Courant Staff Writers
For 7-year-old Angela McCarthy of Glastonbury, the new year officially began at 6 p.m. Sunday with the first of two fireworks displays at Hartford's annual First Night New Year's celebration.
The second fireworks display happened with the traditional countdown at midnight - way past Angela's bedtime.
"This is a lot of fun," said Angela, whose resolution for 2007 consisted of a vow to improve her soccer skills.
She and hundreds of other kids gathered at Bushnell Park to watch the night sky light up, one of many First Night events that have made the celebration one of the most popular and widely attended in the state. The revelers were helped out by a winter night that was crisp, yet hardly freezing.
Outside the carousel at Bushnell Park, 10-year-old Johnette Williams of Hartford waited anxiously for the fireworks to begin while resolving to "do better at math" in the year ahead. Nearby, 9-year-old Aaron MacInnis of Newington sported a Harry Potteresque wizard hat, complete with flashing red lights. He offered up no resolutions for the new year, saying he was pretty happy with the way things went in 2006.
By 7 p.m., the kid-themed events began giving way to more adult fare, as musicians of all stripes performed for packed houses at local restaurants, nightclubs, churches and other venues. Organizers predicted that thousands would show up to celebrate the New Year when all was said and done, with most of them showing up for the nighttime attractions.
Small groups of people began trickling into downtown in the afternoon. Foot traffic was sparse, but the Bust A Move program at Christ Church Cathedral opened to an enthusiastic standing-room-only audience.
The popular attraction, in its second year, presented a scene from Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," but substituted break dancing in the place of fighting.
The scene was performed by Hector Gonzalez and Jason Post, members of a Hartford Stage troupe. After the show, about a dozen children in the audience participated in a workshop on break dancing with the performers, which included learning some moves and battling - or dancing - against each other.
Johnny Vito, 10, of Hartford, was among the youngsters who stepped forward to show off their moves.
"I take break dancing classes," said Johnny, who was attending First Night for the second time. "I always want to battle."
Eddie Duran, director of education for Hartford Stage, said the event is popular because kids think break dancing is cool, which gives him an opportunity to introduce them to classic theater.
"Shakespeare is usually not cool," Duran said, adding that he expected to be back next year with a scene from "Macbeth."
Around the corner at the Hartford 21 apartment complex, visitors were checking out 48 Hours of Art, which featured installations by six local artists. The works included a giant, orange top spinning on its side and a piece entitled "The Fort," in which the artist imagined what it would be like to live in one of the complex's upper floors and laid it out on the floor complete with lamps, pillows, music and a large canopy.
Lori Liappes, 27, of Middletown was visiting First Night for the first time with her three young children and mother.
"There's lots of stuff for the kids," said Liappes, who planned to take them to a magic show, crafts and the early evening fireworks show.
The only drawback, she said: "They're not liking all the walking."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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