Some stayed home to ring in New Year

Posted: Sunday, January 02, 2000

Bedtimes were ignored on New Year's Eve as Juneau families gathered at homes, beaches and playhouses to celebrate.

At midnight the Mendenhall Valley erupted with fireworks. People came out of their homes to set off flares, car alarms and strobe lights, or just watch.

``It's not like this comes around very often,'' said 17-year-old Mikko Wilson.

He and Jacob Reed, 16, were videotaping the fireworks as the finale to their 24-hour taping of television millennium coverage from around the world.

Bill and Marthe Shallies had saved fireworks from last Fourth of July.

``We've always said we wished we had them in the dark, because summer it's not as dark,'' Marthe Shallies said. ``We figured this would be a big event.''

And as the clock continued to tick into 2000, she noted that nothing had changed.

``Well, our power didn't go out, so I'm glad I didn't spend $100 on water,'' Shallies said.

The fireworks didn't wake Lindsay and Auri Clark on Lena Loop Road. At 8:30 p.m. the girls, ages 8 and 5, had carried games, books and stuffed animals across the lawn and up into their playhouse built on 20-foot stilts. A cold wind blew into the Lena Loop playhouse, already crowded with bedding in preparation for the New Year's Eve slumber party. The girls and their parents spent the night cuddled together in a space the size of a queen bed.

``We get to stay up as late as we want,'' said Lindsay. ``I'm probably going to stay up all night.''

Her parents exchanged knowing looks over the top of her head. And when someone set off fireworks at 11 p.m. they convinced the girls that was midnight.

``We sort of considered that good enough, and they were out in seconds,'' said their father, John Clark.

Juneau entrepreneur Sam Skaggs had kids in mind when he rented the Cathedral of the Nativity Parish Hall on Fifth Street downtown and invited a dozen families up for a New Year's Eve party. Skaggs said he wanted a place where kids could run around.

Odin Brudie, a 42-year-old state worker, dug his record player out of storage for the occasion and showed up with a box of vinyl LPs. Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks provided the soundtrack for 15 youngsters who danced and ran through the hall as the adults feasted on desserts.

For Brudie's 8-year-old daughter Aldyn, the party was a chance to blow off steam. She said she was worried about the end of the year, and relieved that no problems resulted from much-heralded Y2K bugs.

``People said it would be the end of electricity, or the world would blow up, and I was just kind of scared at first. But since it already happened in Australia and China - it's already 2000 there, and nothing happened to them - I know nothing will happen to us,'' she said.

The world seemed calm enough at Auke Recreation Area, where the Knutson-Lombardo family gathered around a fire.

``It is a perfect night,'' said Rosary Lombardo, 42, admiring the stars twinkling over the still waters. Now and then a splash in the darkness let them know they weren't alone.

When the embers burned out they planned to go home for ice cream sundaes at midnight.

``It's the millennium. We had to do something big,'' said 13-year-old Tristan Knutson.

Another bonfire, near the North Douglas boat launch ramp, consumed construction trash and discarded furniture as marshmallow-cooking celebrants watched the northern lights shine over the mainland mountaintops.

Not everyone was in a party mood. Dave Able was on the dock at Auke Bay at 9:50 p.m., trying to loosen the frozen line to his boat so he could head home to the far side of Coghlan Island. His only plan for midnight was to leave Juneau.

``That's, I guess, good enough,'' Able said.

Though he didn't plan to party, he could understand why others were.

``It's another digit turning over,'' Able said. ``It's like the odometer on the car. It gets to be a big deal.''

Writer Stuart Cohen, 41, said according to the Jewish calender, it's the year 5760. But he wasn't going to let that keep him from also celebrating the year 2000.

Cohen hosted a party at his new house on Starr Hill. Half-a-dozen preschool-age kids tumbled in the living room as the well-dressed adults chatted nearby.

``I haven't seen this many yards of black velvet since I was in a velvet factory in China,'' said Cohen, a former textiles dealer.

Many people made a point of being in the Capital City for New Year's Eve. Robbi Woltring, 26, flew down from Anchorage. She was at a private party on Starr Hill with a Latin theme, drinking mojitos, a Cuban lime-and-rum concoction, and visiting with her friends.

``I love Juneau - it's such a community oriented place. I didn't want to be in a massive metropolis with a bunch of strangers,'' she said. Woltring said she wanted to be outdoors at midnight.

``I want to get away from all the hype when the countdown happens. I want to be outside, with the snow on the branches and the stars,'' she said.

Jen LaRoe, 31, also made a special effort to be in Juneau for New Year's, returning from a three-month trip to New York and California in time for the holiday. She said if anything weird happens, this is where she wants to be.

John Fehringer lived in Juneau for 12 years before moving to Seattle in 1992. He said he decided in August he would return to Juneau for New Year's Eve.

``Of all the places on the planet, this is where I wanted to be,'' he said. The 46-year-old artist and stockbroker said his friends are here, and Juneau feels more like home than Seattle.

``Twenty years from now, when people ask, I wanted to say I was in Juneau,'' he said.

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