Augustans didn't wait until the hour was late to celebrate the new year.
Thousands swarmed to Broad Street on Friday for the early hours of the Celebrate 2000 New Year's Eve Street Party. By nightfall, throngs had gathered in unseasonably warm weather to welcome the start -- official or not -- of a new millennium.
"I'm really surprised to see this many people downtown this early," said Augusta Mayor Bob Young. "It's really great to see this many families here, because all along we wanted to keep this a family event."
Mr. Young led the evening's first countdown, with the help of Miss Augusta April Brooks. The pair helped dozens of children count down to the start of the new year in Great Britain and the westernmost parts of Europe and Africa.
The children, given free rein to holler by the adults onstage, made the most of the opportunity. The throng screamed each number, then managed to climb a few more decibels as the countdown reached zero.
Many people said they were pleased with the family focus of the event's early hours.
"I think it's great, so far," said Ben Gauthier, attending with his wife, Susan; son-in-law, Mark Foley; and grandchildren Jessica, Jennifer, Jacqueline and Jonathan Foley. "The kids are having a wonderful time."
"Anywhere they can get hot dogs and ice cream, they have a good time," Mrs. Gauthier added.
Event sponsors and city officials reported no problems during the party's first hours.
"It's going super," said John Fish, assistant general manager of The Augusta Chronicle, one of the event's sponsors. "The crowd's been great; we've had no major problems; and everybody's having a good time."
Reach Brandon Haddock at (706) 823-3409.