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From floats to football to icy swims, Americans ring in 1997

January 1, 1997

From feathery costumes to flower-covered floats, paradegoers on both coasts took to the streets to celebrate New Year’s Day. While most people had Wednesday off to linger at brunch or bowl games, one school district was holding classes.

In Philadelphia, a cast of 20,000 sequined, painted comedians cracked jokes and played banjos during the 97th annual Mummers Parade in the morning chill.

``The weather doesn’t bother us: We’re snowmen!″ shouted a white-faced Bob Aloi, a Mummer for 40 years. He was part of a group dressed head-to-toe in white, shiny suits bringing laughs to the crowd.

John Goldstein preferred the look of a strongman, attaching plastic foam body parts to himself. A 2-foot orange hat finished off his costume, called ``Montezuma’s Revenge.″

``Everyone designs their own costume,″ he said. ``It’s building and creating. It’s a challenge.″

In Pasadena, Calif., floral elephants, butterflies and hamburger-eating space aliens _ led by a real B-2 bomber _ floated down Colorado Boulevard to mark the 108th Tournament of Roses Parade.

Among floats celebrating the theme ``Life’s Shining Moments″ were depictions of Pinocchio coming to life, rabbits celebrating the end of school, two giraffes falling in love, and a mermaid surrounded by fish.

New Year’s Day was the time in many cities to take the plunge _ into icy water.

Hundreds of people jumped into the 40-degree ocean in Jamestown, R.I., for the 21st annual Penguin Plunge. Some wore top hats and bow ties and not much else as they tried to stay in for up to a minute.

Those making New Year’s resolutions to exercise were not in any hurry, if the sparse crowd at Bally Total Fitness in Dundalk, Md., was any indication.

``Today I’m sure a lot of people are hung over and staying in bed,″ said manager Mike Scheuer.

It was back to school in Pittston, Pa. As was the case on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, classes were held to make up for a six-week teachers’ strike in September for the 3,300-student district.

But there wasn’t much of turnout: Only 11 percent, or 115 of the 1,060-member high school body showed up. The teachers earned higher marks _ all were present.

Remnants of confetti, noisemakers, and silly hats had all but disappeared Wednesday morning from the streets of Times Square, where half a million revelers withstood the subzero weather to watch the lighted ball usher in 1997.

Sanitation workers expected to pick up 30,000 tons of trash, including confetti, cans and bottles. No exact figure was available. The cleanup tab: $18,000.

Not all celebrations ended well.

In Los Angeles, at least 51 young people got sick at a rock concert by the band In 7th Heaven after they drank an orange-colored liquid described as a legal, herbal stimulant. Four stopped breathing and at least two people remained in the hospital Wednesday.

A few minutes before midnight in New Brunswick, N.J., 20 to 30 partygoers crowded an upstairs room at one home and the floor collapsed. Six people were injured, two seriously with back fractures.

Some revelers kept up with a dangerous custom of firing guns into the air to mark the new year.

Moments after midnight, a 10-year-old girl in front of her Montgomery, Ala., home, was struck in the shoulder by a random bullet fired blocks away in a New Year’s fireworks celebration. The bullet lodged near the girl’s rib cage, but she didn’t need to be hospitalized. Doctors said the bullet was not life-threatening and that they would operate later to remove it.

Two women suffered minor injuries from stray bullets in New Orleans. One was grazed in the chest while walking in the French Quarter, and the other was hit in the breast while holding her baby on her front porch.

In Detroit, there were no injuries, but bullets did hit a few cars. Residents had been urged to adopt a new anti-gun effort: ``Ring in the New Year With a Bell, Not A Bang.″

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