U.S. Celebrates New Year from Coast to Coast

Fireworks rained over the Las Vegas Strip as hundreds of thousands of revelers rang in 2006 with quickie weddings, parties at posh nightclubs and what organizers hoped was the world's largest simultaneous toast — 14,000 Chardonnay-filled plastic glasses raised just before midnight.

"Las Vegas knows how to throw a party," Mayor Oscar Goodman said at the annual blowout, billed as the largest New Year's Eve party outside New York's Times Square.

Hours earlier in Manhattan, a 76-year-old Dick Clark returned to television for the first time since suffering a stroke, saying from a studio above Times Square, "I wouldn't have missed this for the world."

The numbers 2006 lit up over Times Square and confetti clouded the air, while the massive crowd stretching more than 10 blocks up Broadway and the surrounding streets sang "Auld Lang Syne."

In New Orleans, after a festive jazz funeral procession in memory of Hurricane Katrina's victims, the city celebrated the end of a devastating year with concerts in the French Quarter and the lowering of a giant gumbo pot — a Cajun twist on New York's Waterford crystal ball.

As the countdown began, Mayor Ray Nagin asked the thousands gathered to "just take a moment to remember all those people who did not make it to 2006."

Further north, Boston honored the hurricane-ravaged New Orleans with Marti Gras-themed festivities. The "Spirit of New Orleans" parade featured carnival masks, and jazz bands joined in.

Organizers estimated more than a million people were in Boston to celebrate the new year, despite forecasts of 2 to 4 inches of snow and lows in the 20s. Car horns honked across the city, where ice sculptures, parades, parties and fireworks kicked off the annual First Night celebration.

The public square was quieter in Los Angeles, where a concert party expected to draw 20,000 revelers to six downtown blocks was canceled hours before its scheduled start. Fire officials said they had safety concerns as a drenching storm moved through the region.

"It was just pouring rain and it looked like it was going to continue," Dave Dean, organizer of the Giant Village bash. "Something terrible could have happened. I'm just devastated."

The Black Eyed Peas, Death Cab for Cutie and other groups were scheduled to perform; organizers said they would hold a makeup event.

Flooding from new storms in the West also forced Reno, Nev., to postpone its New Year's Eve fireworks until Monday.

In Vegas, gusts of 30 mph and scattered showers threatened cancel the $500,000 firework display, complete with 40,000 devices and 10 rooftop launching pads.

But the skies cleared and winds calmed, allowing the show to light up the Strip for 8 minutes after midnight.

"This skyline was looking good tonight," said producer Phil Grucci. "It was in its finest glory."

Downtown revelers also attempted to break the Guinness world record for the largest simultaneous toast with 200 cases of Chardonnay. Others sought more exclusive gatherings, paying a $200 cover to ring in the new year at Wynn Las Vegas' newest posh nightclub, Tryst.

Business was also brisk at downtown's Wee Kirk O' the Heather wedding chapel.

Newlyweds Rick Hanson, 36, and Kiarra Hansen, 45, said they came from Farmington, Utah to tie the knot.

"It's a new moon and a new day and the start of new year," Hansen said.