The telephone number for the First Night New Year's Eve celebration in Annapolis is 301-268-8553. The number is incorrect in some editions of today's Weekend section, which was printed in advance. (Published 12/28/90)
EVERYONE HATES New Year's Eve," says a friend of mine. "There's all this pressure to do something important and memorable. So no one knows what to do."
But if you think about it, what you do during the first minute of the first day of the first year of the decade does seem sort of important. Not that we want to put any pressure on you or anything.
Some will opt to spend Monday night as they have in years before, carousing with a few hundred close strangers, and Tuesday, feeling low and trying to forget. Others will spend it quietly, maybe in the bosom of family or a circle of friends, or even alone, contemplating what happened last year, and what they hope will happen this year.
But lots of us are just looking for Somewhere To Go. Someplace where something is already happening. Someplace where someone else will clean up afterwards.
Unfortunately, the District government, citing trouble and expense, canceled its annual outdoor downtown celebration at the Pavilion at the Old Post Office. And though it never really lived up to Mayor Marion Barry's boast that the bash would outdo New York's Time Square tradition, its loss means one less option for those of us who prefer company.
There's no shortage of private parties and high-ticket or beer-budget bashes at hotels and nightclubs, of course. But if you want to be around people without spending a lot of money on the first day of the belt-tightening '90s, and you're willing to do a little traveling to get there, here's a handful of nearby public celebrations and street happenings, most of which are stressing the low-cost, no-alcohol angles.THINK SMALL
There are no big outdoor gatherings in the District this year. Money's too tight for the D.C. government to sponsor an outdoor event, and the Post Office decided it was also too squeezed to present its outdoor stamp drop from the 315-foot clock tower, which also served as the official unveiling of the new "Love" stamp design.
But they'll still be partying at the Pavilion at the Old Post Office. "Of course, there's something happening here!" says Pavilion spokesman Seamus Houston, who is expecting about 2,500 at the party. Inside will be cash bars and dancing to two live local bands -- Alliance and Model 5 playing an eclectic range of music -- and a DJ. And the Pavilion will recreate the postage stamp drop indoors, when this year's Love stamp plummets nine stories from the ceiling.
The event is free, but tickets are necessary. Radio station WRQX (107.3-FM) is giving them away with call-in contests, and the Pavilion restaurants will provide tickets to patrons with reservations for that evening.
Of the four restaurants in the Pavilion, three still were taking reservations at press time: Blossoms ($49.95 per person for dinner, a bottle of champagne and dancing in the restaurant from midnight to 2; 202/371-1838 or 202/371-1839), Fitch, Fox & Brown ($65 per person or $125 per couple for dinner and a bottle of champagne; 202/289-1100) and Hunan ($55 per person for dinner and a small bottle of champagne; 202/371-2828). Enrico's (202/289-4030) is sold out, but callers are being told they can put their names on a waiting list in case cancellations create openings at the restaurant, which overlooks the Pavilion stage. Tickets are $50 per person and include dinner, champagne and a guaranteed seat in the restaurant all night.
The Pavilion management strongly urges partygoers to use Metro to get there (the Federal Triangle station on the Blue and Orange line). Metro will be extending its hours to 2 a.m. For information on the Pavilion party, call 202/289-4224. WALTZING IN THE NEW
Meanwhile, across town at the Kennedy Center, a tonier tradition continues -- waltzing in the New Year at midnight under the chandeliers in the plush red Grand Foyer. Music by Sidney's Orchestra and members of the National Symphony Orchestra begins around 11 (after the "New Year's Eve in Old Vienna" concert in the Concert Hall lets out), and it's open to anyone attending a Kennedy Center performance that evening. ("Grand Hotel," "A Tuna Christmas," "Shear Madness" and the Vienna concert all had tickets available at press time.) There's a cash bar, and the terrace-level Encore Cafe is offering a New Year's breakfast special from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. Call 202/467-4600.BALTIMORE BLAST
Up in Baltimore, the City That Reads, they're tossing a "Party With a Pop." They're calling it that because Diet Pepsi is co-sponsoring the fizzy bash with the city of Baltimore (even though many Baltimoreans call pop "soda"). This is the eighth year for the official city celebration, which is expected to attract 3,000 to the Baltimore Convention Center, 1 W. Pratt St.
The multilevel party features dancing to music by the Mahoney Brothers, Regency, Mama Jama, and comedian Blaine Capatch, who won't mind if you dance; and a room set aside for the hilarious make-your-own record booths by Super Star Recording. The event opens at 9:30 and continues till 11:30, when everyone files out to the Inner Harbor to await the midnight hour, which will be counted down by Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke from the Harborplace Amphitheatre while lasers project the numbers on the Baltimore Aquarium and the World Trade Center. You'll know it's next year when the 20-minute show of lasers and fireworks begins. And people make noise and kiss strangers and stuff. But then, Baltimore's like that all the time. Admission to the party is $7 for adults; $5 for children 12 and under, and includes free snacks. Call 301/837-4636 or 800/282-6632.FIRST-NIGHTERS
Annapolis, which was, as you may know, the first capital of the United States, is also presenting what they call the first "First Night" in the Baltimore-D.C. area. The First Night concept -- family-oriented, alcohol-free performing arts festivals to celebrate the New Year -- began in Boston in 1976; this year 60 cities are simultaneously celebrating it. The First Nights closest to Washington besides Annapolis are Leesburg, Charlottesville and Winchester, Va., and York, Pa.
Honolulu is having its first First Night, this year, too, but if you can get there, you don't need to read any further.
Each city's First Night is organized by a nonprofit committee, which carefully tailors the event to accentuate its city's ambiance.
"It's not a prefab job," says First Night spokeswoman Elizabeth Welch. "You don't just plop it on here. Annapolis has these wonderful crooked streets and interesting art and architecture, and everything will be within walking distance."
First Night Annapolis will feature music, dance and theater performances in the shops, gardens, homes and churches of the city's historic district. Welch says she expects between 7,000 and 10,000 revelers in Annapolis, judging from attendance at other cities and at other Annapolis public events.
The First Night festivities begin with children's performances at 4:30 p.m.; grown-up performances (all of them family-oriented, Welch says) begin at 6:30. Topping the bill are the well-regarded Baltimore-based Next Ice Age ice dancers, who will present four shows at Dahlgren Hall at the Naval Academy with music ranging from Tchaikovsky to Eurythmics. Other performers include the Queen Sisters and Christian Joy gospel groups, folk singer Ray Owen, mime Mark Jaster, the Continuum a cappella chamber singers, magician Nymbewyke and the Allons-Y Cajun band.
Ice sculptor Skip Guthier will spend the last hours of 1990 down at the city dock, chipping away at 15 blocks of ice, making performing circus animals for First Nighters.
"Ice is temperamental," Guthier says. "You can't guarantee anything with it. What I'm praying for is a clear but overcast, cold, cold day -- 25 degrees would be perfect."
Guthier, who says he hopes to make ice sculpting a "prominent art form," claims he can carve a sailboat out of a block of ice in a half hour. "But if you want a Buddha, that will take 16 hours."
Guthier says he doesn't miss anything by putting his New Year's Eve on ice. "I gave up all that nonsense long ago, after waking up one bad New Year's morning. You get up and say 'No, no -- this is not the way to start the new year.' These days, I usually go to church and say a few prayers for the new year."
He says his Annapolis friends are enthusiastic about the city's first First Night. "It's like, wow, something to do where we can walk around and not worry about being mugged or getting run over by drunks."
Midnight will be announced by a sweep of searchlights, a burst of fireworks, a pealing of bells and a droning of bagpipes sounding the traditional "Auld Lang Syne" at the city dock. And strangers will kiss, etc., etc.
"The best thing is you get to make your own itinerary," Welch says. An $8 First Night button allows admission for all events during the evening. Buttons are available at many Annapolis area businesses; and in Washington at Mission Traders at Eastern Market, Seventh Street and North Carolina Avenue SE. There is free parking and shuttle bus service from the Naval Academy Stadium on Rowe Boulevard in Annapolis. Call 301/268-8553.
First Night in Leesburg will feature a similarly broad variety of family entertainment: storytellers, magicians, puppet shows, dancers, comedians, a juggler and a ventriloquist. Also, of course, music galore: folk, gospel, ragtime, rock 'n' roll, classical, blues, bluegrass, barbershop and fife-and-drum. Between 6:30 and 11:30, all entertainment acts will rotate among 16 downtown Leesburg sites, all within easy walking distance of one another.
At 11:45 candles will be distributed to all revelers 10 years and older, and there will be a candlelight parade from the historic home of Gen. George Marshall (one block from downtown) to the courthouse green. Tickets are $3 in advance, $4 if bought Monday evening (kids under 6 free). Several locations in downtown Leesburg will be selling them all week. Call 703/771-0410 or 800/752-6118.
If you're interested in being a First Nighter in another city, here's where to call: Boston, 617/542-1399; Charlottesville, 804/296-8269; Virginia Beach, 804/498-0215; Winchester, 703/667-1322; York, 717/843-0043; and Honolulu, 808/944-7301.MUMMER'S THE WORD
There's got to be a morning after, of course.
For those who favor tradition, there's always the annual Mummers Parade in Philadelphia. This is the 91st event, which is known for its guys wearing fezzes and wheeling around in tiny cars.
"It ain't commercialized like the Rose Bowl Parade," says Fred Calandra, a mummer for 50 years and president of the Philadelphia New Year's Shooters and Mummers Association for 27 of them. "This is all working men who work all year and want to do something different."
The parade steps off Tuesday at 7:45 a.m. down Broad Street, and doesn't finish until 9 or 10 at night. But participants spend all year planning and working on their constumes, Calandra says. The parade attracts some 20,000 to 25,000 participants -- divided into fancy costumed groups, themed brigades, comics and string bands -- and a quarter of a million spectators.
"It's gotten so big now that the themes have to be registered," Calandra says. And of course they're confidential. "In fact, a Catholic priest takes in all the themes and keeps them to himself. He just makes sure there's no duplication."
If you get really intrigued by Mummers (and who wouldn't be?) and you can stay an extra day, you might want to stop by the Mummers Museum at Second Street and Washington Avenue. It's open 9:30 Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 5 Sundays; admission is $2 for adults, $1.25 seniors and children. Call 215/336-3050.RUNNING INTO 1991
And coming back home again, the 15th annual Ed Barron Hangover Classic gets the New Year started on the right foot.
Sponsored by the Potomac Valley Seniors Track Club and named after the late Ed Barron, the founder of the club who put this race together 15 years ago, this low-key, just-for-kicks, come-as-you-are 8K race starts at high noon at the Reflecting Pool. Registration is $5 and only on site. But if you want the first race T-shirt of the year, get there by 10 a.m., as quantities are limited at $8 a shirt. Costume judging begins at 11. Call 703/243-1291.
"It essentially started just as a way to celebrate," says race organizer Sal Carello. "But it's evolved into a full-fledged opening of the running season."
The course is more spectator- than competitor-oriented, Carello says, "because the Park Service doesn't want us on the roads. They're still busy dealing with last night's mess."
The double loop of 4K runs starts at the Lincoln Memorial playing fields, passes the Memorial, continues up along Independence and back to the Reflecting Pool. Carello says he expects up to 1,300 runners and 80 to 90 racewalkers if the weather is good.
"It's not really a race as much as a happening," says Carello. "You'd be surprised -- a lot of personal records are set. It's noon, everybody's relaxed, the bodies are awake for the most part. And if you don't want to run, it's even more fun to come out and watch."
Carello doesn't know what percentage of the Hangover participants go out and party full-out the night before. "We've seen people come and run in tuxes. Last year, one guy came dressed as a woman and ran the whole damn race in high heels."
About 144 bottles of champagne or sparkling cider are given away as age group and costume prizes. "Usually by the time we finish, a lot of people have left, so just about everybody gets something," Carello says.
So, is running a good hangover cure? "Well, I personally think it's the worst thing you can do," Carello says. "But the subtlety behind the race is not that you come with a hangover, but that you avoid getting one because you're running the race the next day."
At any rate, you could find worse ways to spend your time on the first day of the New Year. And a brisk jog may be just the way to atone for the sins of the previous year -- and the night before.
"I think running is a purging as much as anything -- it gets your mind clear," Carello says. "In fact, that's a great way to think about it: You'll be running into the New Year, rather than crawling out of the old one."
Staff writer Kevin McManus contributed to this story.