NEW YORK (Reuters) - From Sydney to Dubai, revelers welcomed 2014 with extravagant fireworks displays, while London prepared to celebrate by spraying clouds of fruit-flavored mist and Chicago and San Francisco planned massive outdoor celebrations.
In New York, about one million people were expected to gather in Times Square for the New Year’s Eve street party as Miley Cyrus, Melissa Etheridge and hip-hop artists Macklemore & Ryan Lewis headline the festivities and the dropping of a 11,875-pound, crystal-encrusted ball marks the start of 2014.
“We’ve been living on granola bars and little bottles of water, because if you move, you lose your spot,” said Sheila Harshbarger, who had traveled from Indiana with her daughter and staked out her ground next to a row of police barricades in the frigid cold more than 14 hours before midnight.
There will be no crystal ball for Brasstown, in the mountains of North Carolina. At midnight it will hold its 20th New Year’s Eve “possum drop” - in which a caged opossum is displayed in a Plexiglas container for spectators.
“If New York can drop a ball... then we can lower the opossum,” organizers 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 braced for snow and freezing temperatures. Chicago, which could see a significant snow storm amid its flurry of festivities, was offering free rides on trains and buses from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. to ensure revelers make it home safely.
In San Francisco, one of the last places in the world to see the clock strike midnight, some 200,000 people will gather on the waterfront for a fireworks display illuminating the city’s world famous Golden Gate Bridge.
While organizers in cities like Chicago and New York were just starting to block off streets in preparation for the evening’s events, festivities were well under way in other parts of the globe.
As midnight struck in Sydney, Australia, a massive fireworks display lit up the night sky around the city’s famed Harbor Bridge and Opera House. New Year’s organizers in Dubai were attempting to break the Guinness World Record for largest fireworks display.
In London, edible banana confetti and strawberry mist will rain from the sky as a fireworks display along the River Thames lights up Big Ben and other landmarks.
Across the United States, 2014 will also usher in political changes and the official start of a slate of new laws.
At midnight, New York City’s next mayor, Bill de Blasio, will be sworn in at a private ceremony at his home in Brooklyn, replacing Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is leaving office after 12 years. Former President Bill Clinton will deliver the oath of office for de Blasio at a formal inauguration ceremony on Wednesday at City Hall.
Americans who have signed up for new health-care coverage under President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, are expected to begin receiving benefits on January 1.
In Colorado, a new law will allow residents of the state to buy an ounce of marijuana at a time from specially regulated retailers. Possession, cultivation and private personal consumption of marijuana by adults has already been legal in Colorado for more than a year.
“It will be like people waiting in line for tickets to a Pink Floyd concert,” said Justin Jones, 39, owner of Dank Colorado in Denver who has run a medical marijuana shop for four years and now has a recreational pot license.
Additional reporting by Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, Mary Wisniewski in Chicago, Keith Coffman in Denver and Marina Lopes in New York; Editing by Edith Honan and Gunna Dickson