A Night to Party or Pray
2003 Greeted With Fests, Family Gatherings and Faith
By Nelson Hernandez and Fredrick Kunkle
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, January 1, 2003; Page B01
First they begged her. Then they dragged her.
Amy Kinder wanted nothing to do with the "Spider Web," the game she came across while strolling through Halsey Field House with her husband and three daughters during First Night Annapolis activities at the U.S. Naval Academy. But they insisted, and there she was, decked out in a baggy Velcro suit, ready to jump against an inflatable Velcro wall with the objective of being splattered, splayed and contorted in as many directions as possible.
The 49-year-old physical therapist struggled to get her balance on the wobbly inflated platform and leapt into the beyond. The outfit stuck to the wall, but she didn't. Kinder disappeared into the depths of her oversized suit.
"Whoa, I think I pulled something," she said.
Most Washingtonians didn't take as adventurous a leap into 2003. But as 2002 slipped into history last night, some ate, some drank, and others danced, prayed, watched fireworks or just hung out.
In Annapolis, those not interested in wearing Velcro took in a kid-friendly Mardi Gras-themed celebration with fortune tellers, stilt walkers and magicians. Alexandria's First Night offered music and dances at 21 spots, including the George Washington Masonic National Memorial. The District's Greater Mount Calvary Holy Church sponsored a Watch Night service at DAR Constitution Hall.
The Kinders -- Amy, husband Mike, 52, Katie, 14, Lizzie, 12 and Becky, 9 -- come to First Night in Annapolis every year, except for last, when the family skipped it because of the cold weather. They couldn't have gone to the Naval Academy last year anyway, because security concerns forced it to close its doors.
Yesterday, with the academy gates reopened, the temperature was a balmy 54 degrees, and the Kinders were ready to party, along with 20,000 other participants.
"You can't help but be in a good mood," Mike Kinder said.
Despite the shadows of war lengthening over the academy, the mood was cheerful. Even the pistol-packing Marine guard checking identification at the gate was cooing at babies as they passed by in strollers.
© 2003 The Washington Post Company
Marianne Wittelsberger greets families arriving for the New Year's Eve celebration in Annapolis. Activities were again held at the U.S. Naval Academy after a one-year hiatus prompted by security concerns.
(Dudley M. Brooks -- The Washington Post)