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New Year's Eve, the ultimate party night.

It used to be that most people's idea of what constitutes the perfect party for this transitional evening was pretty much the same. You get dressed up. You go out. You drink. You dance. You eat. You drink. You go home. You sleep. You wake up. You have your hangover.

But as the folk song goes, the times they are a-changin'. Some people still do all that, but others are getting creative with this holiday. Or avoiding it. Or something that falls between those extremes. This is what was revealed by respondents to last week's Sundial question -- What will you do New Year's Eve, and how has your activity changed over the years?

One woman who claims she never had a date on New Year's Eve is making up for it. Big time.

Shortly after the stroke of midnight, Veroneca Burgess is marrying her honey. You could call it the "ultimate date."

"I wanted it to be a special day," says Ms. Burgess, explaining why she chose New Year's Eve. "It's a new beginning."

The nuptials will take place at City Temple of Baltimore Baptist Church immediately after the church's regular New Year's Eve service. Ms. Burgess, an administrative judge for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, is tying the knot with John King, who owns and operates a security business.

"This is my first real, New Year's Eve date," Ms. Burgess says, noting the irony. "I would usually spend it with my girlfriends and at church."

Spending the evening in church can be special, but what would the night be without just a little decadence?

For Nancy and Robert Murdock, moral turpitude is a bowl of sinfully rich ice cream. These empty nesters are happily spending tonight together sharing some of life's gastronomical delights.

"My husband and I will be playing a game of Trivial Pursuit and eating some gooey, chocolatey ice cream," Mrs. Murdock says. "And if we can stay awake long enough, we'll also follow it up with a game of Scrabble!"

Not that the Woodlawn couple has anything against going out -- they just prefer to do it any day of the year but New Year's Eve.

"If I'm going to go out, I would rather do it on a day when parking is not a problem and you can get waited on in your lifetime," Nancy Murdock says.

Also, they have some concerns about safety on this day.

"People drink more on that day," Mrs. Murdock says. "We will choose another day to go out and celebrate the new year."

Michelle and Bruce Heck, though, are totally pumped up about tonight.

The Catonsville couple, parents of two young children, haven't had a big night out in years. Tonight, they will dine and dance the night away with a whole gaggle of celebrating in-laws.

"My husband is one of seven children, and all seven of them and their spouses, fiances or significant others are all going out. We're going out to dinner, and we're going to a black-tie affair," Mrs. Heck says.

Thinking ahead, everyone pitched in to rent a limo. "That way, no one has to be the responsible driver," she says.

The couples have Mrs. Heck's mother-in-law and father-in-law to thank for tonight's good time.

"My husband's parents are the ones who thought this up. They have volunteered to baby-sit all of our children. And that's nine children, spanning the ages of 7 to newborn. This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing," she jokes.

"The grandparents are probably not going to want to do this again!"

A more quiet time is on tap for Murphy Edward Smith of Baltimore.

"I plan to send a dozen roses to my girlfriend's job, then pick her up, and we're going to go to a very nice hotel out of the city," says Mr. Smith, a film librarian.

"We'll get bubble bath. . . . We're not going out of that hotel, and we're not taking any calls."

Debbie and Jeff Ford, who live in the Parkville area, will also be going to a hotel. However, the hotel room they've booked is in Las Vegas, Nevada.

"We are leaving the children at home with the grandparents," says Mrs. Ford.

The purpose of the trip was to try to see the Barbra Streisand concert. But by the time Mrs. Ford got through on the telephone, only the expensive tickets were left.

"I spent eight hours pushing disconnect, redial, disconnect, redial that day the tickets were on sale, but unfortunately when I got to it at 6 p.m., the only tickets that were left were $600 and $1000 per ticket," she says.

Although they're die-hard Barbra Streisand fans, those tickets are a bit out of the family's price range. But that won't ruin the trip.

"We'll be seeing some shows, the new MGM Grand, just having a good time in Las Vegas on New Year's Eve," Mrs. Ford says.

Teddy Radcliffe's idea of a rousing New Year's Eve party is to play tennis with about 20 friends.

"We are all tennis players and have been doing this for about 10 years," says Mrs. Radcliffe, 64.

The tennis aficionados will gather at the Perring Athletic Club this evening and play for about three hours before going to someone's house for a New Year's Eve meal.

"It's very enjoyable, sane and very healthy," Mrs. Radcliffe says.

Viki and Wayne Altomonte of Owings Mills have done the big parties, bright lights, New Year's Eve thing, but the night's outcome never lived up to their expectations.

"We're not really big partygoers, but through the years, my husband and I have done various things, such as big blowout parties, going down to the harbor to watch the fireworks or going out to a nice restaurant," says Mrs. Altomonte, 43, a nurse.

"But last year, we discovered the most pleasant New Year's Eve that we've ever had. We made crab dip, got a really good bottle of wine and a couple of good videos. We made a fire in the wood-burning stove, made sure the kids were out of the house and spent New Year's Eve alone, together at home."

Mrs. Altomonte says they did not tone down New Year's Eve celebration out of concern for their safety.

"We just felt that we wanted to enjoy each other's company," she says.

"And it was wonderful."

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