Originally created 01/01/00

Activities allow children to ring in new year early



Long before the lines began to form at concession stands and well before local bands began filling Broad Street with music, a segment of Augusta's population already had begun its Y2K celebrations at the Celebrate 2000 New Year's Eve Street Party.

Just outside the event's Sixth Street entrance, at the Augusta-Richmond County Museum, an assembled crowd of parents and children sat relatively quietly in the museum's second-floor History Theater. On stage, Ben & Keeter's Puppets performed, glowing in near-darkness under black lights and attempting to explain the phenomenon of the "maluninium" to a rapt audience.

Downstairs, in the museum's rotunda, things were less sedate. There, children had their faces painted by volunteers from Habitat for Humanity and the Turkish-American Society and made bookmarks and holiday noisemakers at tables sponsored by the Greater Augusta Arts Council and the museum, respectively.

One of the more popular attractions was a mural depicting Augusta's past, present and future. Drawn by members of the Art Factory, the mural was set up in panels so children could add creative input by helping paint it. The results were often multihued, but happy, children.

"That was the kids' favorite," Alfreda Turner said. Her children, Drew and Jasmine, still bore some of the spatters of their endeavors as late as 7 p.m. They arrived at about 3:30 p.m.

Inside the Imperial Theatre, local groups sought to educate as well as entertain children with presentations that focused on Augusta's multicultural heritage with a series of programs that ran from 3:45 p.m, with the final performance, the folk band Galen, starting at 9:45 p.m.

"We're in it for the long haul tonight," said Greg Goodwin, executive director at the Imperial.

The performances included explanations of various cultural traditions, ethnic dance groups and musical acts. Among them was an Art Factory performance of an original play, Our Town, Our People, which illustrated through song, dance, narration and drama the contributions different cultural groups have made to Augusta's history.

The children's New Year celebration culminated with a countdown to 2000, Greenwich Mean Time, which occurred at the bedtime-friendly hour of 7 p.m. locally. Introduced by television station WRDW's Karlyn Lothery and John Fish, assistant general manager of The Augusta Chronicle, the final 10 seconds were counted down by Augusta Mayor Bob Young and Miss Augusta April Brooks and punctuated by a spray of streamers and confetti. The rain of colored paper was followed by a rendition of the Prince song 1999.

Wesley Wilson, 4, seemed nonplussed by the idea of the year 2000, his attention diverted by more immediate events.

"Wesley liked the confetti," said his father, Wes Wilson.

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or suhles@hotmail.com.