From Sydney to London to San Francisco, revellers welcomed 2014 with extravagant fireworks displays, giant street parties and, in a new departure, fruit-flavoured mist.
In New York, hordes of people, many decked out in cartoonish hats, waving balloons or ringing bells, shrugged off freezing temperatures and heightened security in Times Square for the annual New Year’s Eve street party.
Crowds heard musical performances by Miley Cyrus and Melissa Etheridge, who sang John Lennon’s “Imagine”, and then saw the ritual dropping of the New Year’s Eve ball.
US Supreme Court Justice and New York native Sonia Sotomayor helped to usher in 2014 by pushing a button to signal the lowering of the 11,875-pound, crystal-encrusted ball and leading a 60-second countdown. The stroke of midnight triggered a deluge of confetti and music in Midtown Manhattan. “We’ve been living on granola bars and little bottles of water because if you move, you lose your spot,” said Sheila Harshbarger, who travelled to New York from Indiana with her daughter and staked out ground next to a row of police barricades in the freezing cold more than 14 hours before midnight.
Crewmembers on board the International Space Station orbiting the globe sent greetings to the Times Square crowd. The celebrations were not without violence, however.
Several hours before the ball dropped in Times Square, two men were slashed at a nearby bus station in what a Port Authority spokesman said was a dispute over tickets.
Brasstown, in the mountains of North Carolina, held its 20th New Year’s Eve “possum drop” – in which a Plexiglas container containing a caged opossum is “dropped” at midnight. “If New York can drop a ball then we can lower the opossum,” organisers explained on their website.
The event got a last-minute go-ahead after a judge refused a plea by animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to stop the event. Across the northern United States, partygoers had to deal with snow and freezing temperatures, said Roger Edwards, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
“The biggest story is the extreme cold,” Edwards said, predicting lows of 40 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (-40 degrees Celsius) on Tuesday night in North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Chicago was offering free rides on trains and buses from 10pm to 4am to ensure revellers make it home safely.
Residents in Vincennes, Indiana, didn’t let the cold stop their fifth annual Watermelon Drop and Fireworks – a nod to the area’s agricultural roots.
In Nashville, Tennessee, revellers saw the “Music Note Drop” backed up by musical performances, including by Hank Williams Jr and fireworks. But not everyone partied in the streets. US President Barack Obama celebrated the end of 2013 with a low-key foray to buy a cherry and lemon-lime “shave ice” in his native Hawaii before retreating to a vacation rental.
In San Francisco, one of the last major cities in the world to see the clock strike midnight, thousands saw waterfront fireworks illuminate the Golden Gate Bridge.
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