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Bye ’04, welcome to 2005

Snow, chill are no deterrent as festive air reigns on New Year’s Eve in S.L.

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Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,

The flying cloud, the frosty light,

The year is dying in the night.

Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Alfred Lord Tennyson

The setting was right in Salt Lake City Friday night, complete with flying clouds and frosty holiday lights (not to mention a brisk wind that nipped the edges off what would otherwise have been a perfect night for revelry). And if there weren't any bells a la Tennyson's day, there was plenty of noise and a festive air as First Nighters bid 2004 an energetic adieu.

As midnight crept up, a light snowfall appeared to be no deterrent to the partiers. A quartet of young men, David Giroux, Jeremy Aho and Michael and Andrew Altice, had two umbrellas among them and said they could ultimately arm-wrestle for the protection but weren't going to let the weather dampen their enthusiasm.

It was a something-for-everyone affair, with entertainment ranging from the sedate (try the World Harmony Youth Choir opening an evening in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building) to the near-insane (exemplified by avid percussionists Samba Gringa rocking the lobby and raising echoes in the Salt Palace with a hundred rousing variations on badda-boom.)

Kelly Hindley and Richard Hodges attended the festivities with their children, Erin, 7, and Daniel, 10. With more than a dozen venues offering a plethora of choices, the only problem was settling on what to do with the hours until midnight. For Erin and Daniel, the prospect of staying up until a new year began was exciting, but Daniel was a bit wary. He was due to be in Park City early Saturday to compete in the 10-and-11-year-old boys' category of the Wasatch Citizens Series ski event.

Up a level from Samba Gringa and around the corner in the Salt Palace, a powwow invited not only the regalia-bedecked American Indians onto the floor but also enthusiastic audience members. And there was a special guest. Peter Corroon, who dons the Salt Lake County mayor's mantle next week, was welcomed by Cal Nez, who said the Indian community "looks forward to working with you for the next four years."

Invited to join the happy throng of dancers, Corroon did, but not for too long. He said he had out-of-town guests coming, and he didn't expect to hit all of the First Night venues.

Steve Gonzales and Clarine Moffitt/Gonzales, with her son, Ryan Moffitt, all of West Valley City, made the powwow their first stop on a marathon evening of entertainment.

"We've been coming since the first year," said Moffitt/Gonzales.

"Our favorite part is the fireworks, but we love it all," added Gonzales.

Jim and Jean Bird of New Haven, Conn., were having a time finding events, "but it's wonderful when we do," said Jean. They came to Utah to attend a Manti LDS Temple ceremony Thursday solemnizing the marriage of their granddaughter, Rebecca, and Alvin Williams, of Orem. The Birds decided to stay on for the year-end gala. With most of the celebration still ahead, the family members were lingering in the warmth of the Crossroads Plaza while scanning the program and trying to decide what next.

In the ZCMI Center, an entertainer tried to cajole a bashful audience to take part on some karaoke, and when he couldn't, he regaled them with a rousing chorus of "Blue Suede Shoes."

The tempo along Main Street and environs picked up as the witching hour drew on.

A quartet of young people that included Arthur John Van Valkenburg, Michele Villalobos, Dan Preston and Nichole Fuskandrakis was hoping for some rocking music at the Gallivan Center.

But at the moment, the Gallivan crowd was thronged around the skating rink where Santa Claus — obviously refreshed after a week back at the North Pole — was putting on an exhibition calculated to make a reindeer proud.

For Jeff and Jane Hansen, the Gallivan First Night crowd was a great opportunity to share samples of Bear Creek brand's cheddar potato soup. It was a welcome tummy-warmer for the building crowd on the square.

A somber reminder that 2004 has ended on a tragic note for hundreds of thousands of Asians devastated by tsunami waves and their aftermath was found in a Main Street booth where Debby Peterson and Tatyana Koshevaya accepted donations to help alleviate the distress. The two Red Cross volunteers were having hit-and-miss success with people who were more intent on feeling good at the moment.

E-mail: tvanleer@desnews.com