Bomb threat dampens Anchorage's party

Posted: Sunday, January 02, 2000

ANCHORAGE - Alaskans celebrated the year 2000 with public fireworks and community gatherings, although some were disrupted by weather and threats.

Fairbanks had planned a $30,000 fireworks display, but a thick blanket of ice fog generated by temperatures plunging to 53 degrees below zero forced cancellation of the show.

Alaska's largest city held what was billed as the state's largest party in near-zero cold Friday night. But Anchorage's official party was disrupted about two hours before midnight when a bomb threat forced police to evacuate Town Square and the adjacent Performing Arts Center.

An estimated 20,000 people were hustled into downtown's streets when a man phoned 911 to say he had left a backpack in the arts center with a bomb inside timed to explode at midnight.

``We are really kind of mad,'' said Benjamin Brown, a 20-year-old student waiting to get into a bar after police evacuated the area.

Police later declared the area safe and the second fireworks show of the night went off pretty much as scheduled.

People arranged their own entertainment at Eagle, a historic village near the Yukon border, said resident Marlys House.

``It's mostly individuals and groups getting quietly together,'' said House, shortly before leaving to watch the televised Times Square New Year's Eve street party with friends.

On the opposite side of the state in the mid-Aleutians, Unalaska organized several low-key events, including a fireworks show over the harbor. Four vessels participated in an early evening boat parade and a sprinkling of people gathered for hamburgers and hot dogs at an alcohol-free party.

At the nation's northernmost community of Barrow, residents gathered by the dozens in cars and pickup trucks to watch a fireworks show that was nearly overshadowed by a blazing display of northern lights.

At Kotzebue, a snowmachine race was followed by fireworks. An all-night party and sleepover were organized for children at a local school.

Cordova's New Year's Eve celebration included a torchlight parade at the ski hill, a bonfire, Native dancers and a community dance at the firehouse.

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