NEW YORK – Hundreds of thousands of New Year's revelers rang in 2006 from Times Square, ignoring the sleet and snow to celebrate with noisy horns, hugs and kisses as the famous ball dropped on the final seconds of 2005.
"Now bring on peace and happiness!" exclaimed Tarra Meaders, visiting from Arlington, Texas, as the crowd burst into cheers.
Dick Clark was back after a stroke in 2004 forced him to miss his first New Year's Eve celebration in 32 years, though with speech slightly slurred. Jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, joined by city workers who assisted the Hurricane Katrina relief effort, officially started the ball's descent and counted down the final 10 seconds.
As confetti rained down and the numbers 2006 lit up over Times Square, the massive crowd stretching more than 10 blocks up Broadway and the surrounding streets sang "Auld Lang Syne" as one voice.
In Boston, fireworks lit up the night sky, and car horns honked across the city, where ice sculptures, parades, parties and fireworks kicked off the annual First Night celebration. Organizers estimated more than 1 million people were in the city to celebrate the new year.
Tyler Landergren, 14, joined the crowds on Boston Common, a stocking cap pulled down past his eyebrows and a $5 plastic horn in hand.
"It's a very happy night — 2006!" yelled Landergren, an eighth-grader from Gloucester. He puffed his cheeks and blew hard on the horn, letting loose a long, low rumble.
Forecasters predicted 2 to 4 inches of snow in the city, with lows in the 20s, but partygoers were still in the spirit.
"I'd take snow over rain any day," said reveler Ryan Angelopolus, 27, whose "2006" glasses lit up to mark the night. As merchants enjoyed pointing out, the specs could be turned upside down and used again in 9005.
New Orleans itself started the New Year's celebration with a traditionally festive jazz funeral procession in memory of its hurricane victims. Despite the devastation, the city decided to welcome 2006 with fireworks, concerts and a lowering of a giant gumbo pot to mark the start of the new year.
"We're getting into the spirit," said Sharif Nadir, a 59-year-old writer who joined in. "I just hope it puts people into the spirit to rebuild."
Flooding from storms in the West forced Reno, Nev., to move its New Year's Eve fireworks back a day to Monday, but the mayor still promised to lead a New Year's Eve countdown.
Las Vegas, meanwhile, kept in character — everything to excess — with the Strip's drunken revelry, a mass simultaneous New Year's Eve toast, complete with 14,000 plastic cups and some 200 cases of Chardonnay, and an annual blowout billed as the largest New Year's Eve party outside New York.
Dick Clark, now 76, returned to host ABC-TV's "New Year's Rockin' Eve" for a worldwide broadcast audience estimated at 1 billion people.
"It's real good to be back with you again this year," Clark said slowly. "You and I have been a part of each other's lives for so many New Year's Eves that I wouldn't have missed this for the world."