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Getting Ready for 'First Night'


Christmas may be too commercialized and Thanksgiving involves too much food and football for some, but no holiday can be more miserable than New Year's Eve. The traditional New Year's celebration is a creature only juvenile party animals could love -- a boozy bash where people wear goofy hats and pretend they're having the time of their lives even if they'd rather be home watching "Star Trek" reruns.

For single people and families with children, New Year's has always posed special problems. The former face the chore of figuring out what to do when the clock strikes 12 and nine-tenths of the room locks in passionate embrace. The latter have to find a baby-sitter so they can attend aforementioned boozy bash, or stay home and watch "Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve."

Is it any wonder then that last year 30,000 people showed up to attend First Night Annapolis?

This year, the fourth First Night will feature 200 performances by dancers, singers, ice sculptors and street entertainers, plenty of food and a fireworks display. Children are allowed, alcohol is not. It's a wonderful event -- so much so that last year it almost proved too successful. An unseasonable warm spell drew more visitors than the city was prepared for, causing long lines and a $12,000 bill for clean-up and security.

Assuming the weather behaves normally, the crowds probably won't be as big this year. Still, the city and First Night organizers are working to ensure that the event goes smoothly. Organizers are giving visitors these tips:

* Buy the lapel buttons used to gain admission early. Anne Arundel County residents can buy them at most Giant food stores and Fawcett's boat supplies though Dec. 31. The cost is $8 until Dec. 15, then it jumps to $12. Children under 6 are admitted free.

* Plan to park at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium off Rowe Boulevard and take the shuttle to the State House. From there, you can walk or take another shuttle to the performance sites.

* Wear comfortable shoes and layered clothing.

Most important, be willing to go with the flow. There are going to be lines; there's no way around that. But if the line for one show is too long, try something else. They're all great.

Remember: You could be home watching Rockin' New Year's Eve.

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