Danielle Reynolds, Elisa Davis and Michael Ross came from out of state to spend New Year's Eve in Baltimore. The three were meeting a larger group for dinner and drinks at Howl at the Moon, a piano bar in Power Plant Live.
They were among the estimated 50,000 who packed into the Inner Harbor for the 2014 New Year's Eve Spectacular, an annual fireworks celebration to usher in the new year.
Reynolds, a resident of Philadelphia, said she and Davis, who lives in Wilmington, Del., had been to Baltimore last year for a bachelorette party, and they were excited to spend the first few hours of 2014 in the city at the all-you-can-drink open bar before heading back to a relative's home in Fells Point to spend the night. The $80-a-head cover was a little expensive, said Ross, who traveled from Lancaster, Pa., but he expected to spend a little more for New Year's Eve.
"It's that time of year," he said. "We'll still have a good time."
A light and laser show, courtesy of Baltimore-based pyrotechnic company Image Engineering, played on the side of the Power Plant to remixed Christmas music, building with smaller fireworks leading up to the main event, which featured local rock band Alter Ego performing at the Inner Harbor Amphitheater.
Jason Eisner and Debbie Steinig danced around with their children to keep warm while they waited for the light show to begin. The family had dinner at P.F. Chang's and spent the evening walking around the harbor.
"It's both sweet and pathetic that you can drive downtown and park for eight hours on New Year's Eve," said Steinig, who is accustomed to the massive celebration at Times Square in her native New York.
For Lauretta Mukam, Deanah Thomas and D'Anita Parker, the night would be spent watching, rather than participating in, holiday celebrations — "nowhere near a drink, anyway," one said, laughing. The three work at Power Plant Live, and they were on the clock from 7 p.m. until 1 a.m.
Morgan and Joyce Miller and Megan and Tracey Reese were doing the expedited version of New Year's Eve: They'd been dropped off in front of Power Plant about 8 p.m., just in time to watch the light show, and were being picked up about 20 minutes later to head back to Severna Park to warm up and watch the ball drop in Times Square on TV.
Security measures, including bike-rack fencing around the harbor, noticeable police presence, CitiWatch surveillance cameras and bag searches were designed to deter and prevent violence.
Early in the night, the atmosphere at the Inner Harbor was calm, yet festive.
Over on a corner near Pier 6 Pavilion, the infectious melody of "Don't Worry, Be Happy" prompted a passing group to laugh and sing along.
Street musician Japheth Clark smiled under a pair of flashing purple 2014 glasses as he lowered a horn from his mouth.
"I know about 200 songs," he said, the most popular of which include The Turtles' hit "So Happy Together" and the theme song from the "The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time" video game.
A normal day can bring about $100 or more in donations to Clark's red bucket. But he played from 11 a.m. on New Year's Eve until after midnight, hoping to draw more than that.
"If there's a lot of people, I'll play 'If You're Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands,' and people all clap," he said.
It was Mark and Laurie Auxier's first New Year's Eve in Baltimore. The couple from Madison, Ind., made the eight-hour drive to visit their son in Fort Meade for the holidays. They had dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe and planned to stay out for the fireworks at midnight.
"It's a beautiful city," Mark Auxier said, looking out over the harbor. "I love the water. I grew up in Southern California. Being in Indiana, you don't get to see all this stuff."
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