That old party pooper, recession, didn't succeed in crashing New Year's celebrations. Tens of thousands of people packed New York's Times Square and revelers crowded restaurants, hotels and showrooms from Los Angeles to Boston. Each city had its signature celebration.
In Atlanta, about 100,000 people waited in near-freezing weather downtown for the "Peach"--their city's version of the brilliant white ball above Times Square--to drop. "I plan on drinking all night and watching the Peach drop," 21-year-old Jeff Lee said as he nursed his fifth drink early in the evening.
In fitness-conscious San Francisco, a two-mile midnight foot race was followed by a dance party that continued into New Year's Day. More than 1,000 homebound AIDS patients on Tuesday received party packs containing champagne, confetti, noisemakers and a hot meal.
In cosmopolitan New York City, foreign tourists helped to greet 1992 in many accents and tongues. "We're ready to party!" shouted 20-year-old Meream van Hove, a Dutch au pair in the crowd of about 200,000 people jammed into Times Square for the traditional countdown to midnight.
In Bangor, Me. (population 32,000), Town Taxi's 16 drivers were handling two to three times their usual business, dispatcher Anna Caulkins said.
In historic Philadelphia, the 92nd annual Mummers Parade stepped off under sunny skies Wednesday morning. The first group, the Murray Comic Club, displayed a Persian Gulf War motif, complete with "Stormin' Norman," President Bush and Saddam Hussein as caddy on a "gulf" course.
More than 25,000 people were going to cake-walk, strut and strum their way for 12 hours along the 2 1/2-mile parade route from South Philadelphia to City Hall. Forty-seven clubs were competing for $286,470 in cash prizes.
The event takes its name from the tradition of masked actors, or mummers, ringing in the year.
Fears of violence troubled officials in Atlanta, where teen-agers went on a rampage two years ago and caused $250,000 in damage to the downtown Marriott Marquis. This year, the hotel issued guests identification bracelets, and only those wearing them were allowed inside.
For most celebrators--including the Grateful Dead's hard-core following--New Year's Eve was a time to be with family and old friends. The veteran San Francisco-based rock band's annual concert at the Oakland Coliseum was sold out.
In Boston, more than 1,000 artists performed everything from comic opera to country music in 70 locations.
Boston launched its First Night arts celebration in 1976 as an alternative to drunken revelry, and this year, New York City followed suit--in Grand Central Terminal.
In Wisconsin, bar-hoppers were allowed to ring in the New Year for 44 hours, under a law that critics say encourages excess.
The 1988 law allows bars to be open from 6 a.m. on New Year's Eve until 2:30 a.m. Jan. 2.
Mardy Meacham, president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving in southeastern Wisconsin, said more people drink at house parties on New Year's Eve than at bars. She said it might be better to keep people in bars and try to sober them up before sending them out on the streets.
"Put out the coffee, put out crackers and cheese," she said. "The irresponsible person is not going to stop drinking just because we close the tavern at 2."
Economic worries appeared to recede amid the relentless merrymaking.
Jennifer Blazey, spokeswoman for the Queen Mary and Spruce Goose attraction in Long Beach said: "Even though there is a recession, people look forward to this."